The first sentence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals something of the desire that motivates God’s mysterious fascination with the human species. God is good, perfect, blessed and lacking in nothing. He does not need us. Yet, He chooses to draw close to us. This is the “divine weakness” of which St. Paul speaks, the weakness of a Father who will endure any suffering rather than see His children separated from Himself.
Each of Jesus’ actions reveals this mysterious weakness of God. Jesus was powerless to resist whenever a person with true faith called out to Him in need. He knew that our need for His grace would far outlast His short, 33-year sojourn on this earth in human form. That is why, on the eve of his departure, He promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
The Eucharist and the priesthood fulfill this promise. There is an intimate connection between the priesthood and the Eucharist — they were instituted simultaneously at the Last Supper. The priest’s life is consecrated for the sake of the Church. When he celebrates Mass each day, he, along with Jesus, offers his own body and blood “given up for you,” the children of God. The priest also lives out these words in ordinary life — in preparing couples for marriage, hearing confessions, visiting the sick, teaching the faith and simply living among God’s people. He forgoes the covenant of marriage for the sake of a greater covenant — consecrating all of his masculine strength and energy to give himself for the sake of the Church.
The great motive behind the self-gift of the priesthood is “the weakness of God” that is “stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). This unique union with divine weakness is conferred upon him at his ordination. Every priest knows what it is to have his heart surge with mercy when confronted with misery — whether it is physical pain, the alienation of sin or mental illness. All of these conditions call forth a response from the heart of a priest.
Why did God create the priesthood? Because God is weak in the love that He has for each person. And He has chosen to share that weakness with men.
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.