As Christ set about upon his earthly ministry, he was in search of people with faith. Encountering the Roman centurion, Christ states, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” The centurion was desperate, he had an urgent need: his trusted servant was dying. So, in total humility and in a posture of begging, he sent messengers to Jesus, whose healing powers were famous among the Jewish people. He recognized the sovereign authority of Jesus; he acknowledged his own limitations and dependency.
It the same for each of us, we are totally dependent upon God. Like the centurion, we have our own gifts and competencies, but they are of little account when compared to the power of Jesus. When problems arise, we must place our full trust in Jesus, and ask for help. A serious problem today is the severe shortage of priests and religious. In our faith, we must plead with Jesus to help us overcome this great handicap which is crippling the Church. We are blessed to have groups within our Church working to promote vocations; to work with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in keeping alive the idea of priesthood and religious life in the hearts and minds of young men and women.
St. Paul teaches: “God wishes that every man, woman and child be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. God is one, and there is only one Mediator between God and man, the Man Jesus Christ, who surrendered Himself so as to rescue everyone from sin” (1 Tim 2:4).
God wants His plan of salvation to be known, and put into effect, for every person who lives on the earth. But He won’t do this by Himself. He insists that all of us, in our own way, according to our own calling, collaborate with Him in this all-important work. Jesus established His Church to continue His work: to spread His teachings about the Truth, to provide the consolation of the sacraments, to foster strong marriages, healthy families, robust parishes, and to promote the common good of society, and the family of nations.
Each of us has a role to play in the Church. For the majority, the 99%, it is marriage and family, and the pursuit of all the tasks required to build up a just society. But all of these people look to the Church for the Sacraments, and for a correct understanding of God’s plan for faith and morals. They want encouragement and set a good example of how the Christian life is to be lived.
And who will provide this? In God’s plan for His Church, it will be priests and religious men and women. Someone must provide the Sacraments. No priests means no sacraments. Someone must publicly relate the Word of God to the problems and challenges of daily life. And, when necessary, someone must make corrections, and encourage self-discipline that real-life demands. Someone must give a living example of what discipleship looks like. That is the role of the 1%, of all priests and religious.
Any organization – be it a family, a business, a parish, or a political unit – needs good leadership. Without this, everyone suffers and flounders. Priests and religious are called by Jesus to be shepherds and teachers of His people. When their presence is missing, we see what happens. Just observe the number of young Catholics, called Nones, who have left the Church. Observe the state of marriage and family today. Recall the small percentage of Catholics who practice their faith. Consider the very weak influence the Church has upon the broader society. Society and the government depend upon the churches to provide a sense of morality, and to encourage people to grow into the various virtues that a healthy national life so completely depends upon.
Jesus responded to the petitions of the centurion. He will respond to our petitions also. He wants what is best for us, but He insists that we do our part in healing the wounds and injuries of the people who make up the Church. He wants us to use our talents and ingenuity, guided by the Holy Spirit to foster vocations. Thus, we use every means at our disposal to keep alive the idea, and great need, of the priesthood and religious life in the hearts and minds of young people, who are discerning their great life’s project.
The centurion’s faith is our model. We must act accordingly