Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Idolatrous Worship of the Priest

A few days ago I baptised a few children here in the parish. One of those children was the 5th child of a particular family and so her other siblings (all under 9) were there for the great occasion. After the ceremony had taken place and as all the photos were being snapped I was doing a little bit of a tidy up and went to blow out the paschal candle. As I was taking it down out of the candle stand (can anyone tell me what this is called) one little boy of about 5 years of age came running up to me. I lowered the candle to him and told him to blow it out - he duly obliged.

I asked him a question or two about himself and his newly baptised sister and then sent him on his way. I was not prepared for what happened next. Before he took his leave, he folded his hands reverently in prayer and made a profound genuflection in front of me. When I pointed out to him that it was towards the Tabernacle that he should be genuflecting and not to the priest - he looked genuinely perplexed as if what he had done was the most natural thing in the world; and so he turned to head back to his family - none of whom had noticed what he had done.

The incident got me thinking about another incident in which a priest friend of mine was visiting a class of 6 year olds and was asked by one inquisitive young boy if he was God.

My brush with idolatry struck me forcefully though - since that young boy somewhere, somehow probably began to associate (and confuse) the priest with Jesus. And it made me think of the many ways in which I am anything but Christ-like. And what damage can that do to the faith of someone as young or as impressionable as this little boy if I were to be anything less than Christ-like. If only I and every priest would be mistaken for Christ in the way we live and speak and proclaim the Gospel - how much more effective our ministry would be. This little boy's mistaken identity episode has reminded me that I must live up to the calling that is mine as a priest of Jesus Christ.

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