|Zbigniew Kotyłły, John Paul II (2012)|
This year, Holy Thursday falls on the tenth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. Each year on Holy Thursday, the saintly pope would write a letter to his priests, in honor of Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper. The last of these letters, written just before his death, has this to say:
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, the remembrance of Christ in his Paschal Mystery leads to the desire for a full and definitive encounter with Him. We live in expectation of his coming! In priestly spirituality, this expectation must be lived out through pastoral charity, which impels us to live in the midst of God’s People, so as to direct their path and to nourish their hope. This task requires from the priest an interior attitude similar to that of the Apostle Paul: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal” (Phil 3:13-14). The priest is someone who, despite the passing of years, continues to radiate youthfulness, spreading it almost “contagiously” among those he meets along the way. His secret lies in his “passion” for Christ. As Saint Paul said: “For me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
Particularly in the context of the new evangelization, the people have a right to turn to priests in the hope of “seeing” Christ in them (cf. Jn 12:21). The young feel the need for this especially; Christ continues to call them, to make them his friends and to challenge some to give themselves completely for the sake of the Kingdom. Vocations will certainly not be lacking if our manner of life is truly priestly, if we become more holy, more joyful, more impassioned in the exercise of our ministry. A priest “won” by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12) more easily “wins” others, so that they too decide to set out on the same adventure.
My own life is a testament to what St. John Paul II says here: his death was a spiritual wake-up call that eventually helped to lead me to seminary. As we celebrate his death, and even more importantly, the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, let us pray for our priests: both for new and godly vocations, and for those men who have already dedicated their lives to the priesthood.