From the moment I was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy, I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome I have received from parishioners. It has been awesome to begin to feel like a part of the community of OLM before my official assignment even began. But I realize that this enthusiasm isn’t about me, but about the One I represent.
As a priest, I am called not just to represent Christ, but to become Jesus, to act in persona Christi, so that I can say with my own mouth, “This is my Body.” In the short time I have been a priest, I have been struck by the awesome responsibility of what this means—that a weak human being like me is called to be Jesus for others. And yet, this has strengthened my faith because I know my weaknesses better than anybody, I can see more clearly that God is doing the work through me.
Not just priests, but every Christian is called to be Jesus. In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” That’s a tall order. How can we possibly become Jesus?
We can only become Jesus if we know Jesus, through speaking to Him in prayer as our closest friend and being united to Him in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Have you ever noticed that the more time you spend with a person, the more you become like that person? The same is true of Jesus!
And yet in all of this, there will be times when we fail to image Jesus. But this isn’t a reason to give up, but rather a reason for hope. In spite of our failings, God is still able to use us to be Jesus to those around us. In these moments, we can realize that it is truly God shining through us rather than our own effort. St. John Henry Newman has given us a beautiful prayer to help us grow more like Jesus every day:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be You shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
In spite of my weakness, God has called me to be His priest, and to be His priest here at Our Lady of Mercy Parish. I look forward to being Jesus for you and also to receiving Jesus in each and every one of you.