Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Priests For Priestly People
An edge sliced at us in 2003 as all of us learned some priests and bishops failed sectors of the Catholic community in the abuse scandal of epic and reeling proportions.
I recall my own prayer and reflection three years ago. I was tugged by opposing forces: a shock and an awe. I could have absorbed a few instances of failing the community with abusive behavior, but its breadth by a small fraction of clergy and hiding it shocked me. Yet, God’s consolation and guidance abided with us. I remain in deepest awe of God consoling me and guiding me and many, many more men who have not failed but served well as priests.
As you know, I served the Archdiocese of Detroit as one of its priests for a dozen years before I entered the Society of Jesus. I thought I knew awe because I was happy as an archdiocesan priest, serving parishes full time plus giving myself to additional service in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Jesus’ invitation to complete my priesthood as a Jesuit increased my happiness, desire and willingness to serve as a priest.
I was clear about one thing early and for a long while during those dozen years as a parish priest: I needed to simplify my life and how I lived. That momentum increased to propel me to discern how God desired me to do that. God opened me to the Society of Jesus and the Society to me, so that I stand with you as a Jesuit, who served as a spiritual guide & retreat director at nearby Loyola of the Lakes Jesuit Retreat House before standing with you as one of your parish priests.
I long wanted to be a priest. Not until I became a Jesuit did I appreciate deeply that God desired me to serve as a priest. God placed that desire within me. We tend to plan our lives by ourselves. It doesn’t work that way, friends. We discern and we choose the shape to live our lives as God creates us. We don’t merely figure out what we ought to be; after we gain some clarity, we give ourselves to it.
The Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Jesus, the Priest of priests, said what I mean very pointedly: priests are taken from among people...No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.
God has been and is very gracious and very patient with me. God is very gracious and patient with everyone. I’ve come to know better my own weaknesses, my own sinfulness, my own ignorance. God continues to awe me because God uses my fragile being and my blindness to give God glory in Christ Jesus by their Holy Spirit.
We celebrate the priests among us. We can only do so because priests are taken from among us. Priests are not taken away from people, they are with people, seeking to serve as Christ did by teaching, by preaching his good news of death and resurrection and giving voice to God’s word as we live day to day.
In my earliest years, my mentor gave me sound advice: "Be yourself." I try to be myself in order that you may see how you share in the priesthood of Christ Jesus, how you witness to him as his priestly people.
Jesus invites us all to follow him on his way. Every Christian is consecrated by Christ to live his pattern and no other. To celebrate priesthood above all celebrates Christ, who gave his life so all might live. All priests and I appreciate your prayers.
In your daily praying this week, I encourage you to rest in the Trinity for 10 minutes each day. Begin to feel more deeply the personal love the Divine Persons have for you. Speak to one or all of them what arises on your heart when you consider the gifts they give you each day to walk more closely with them. Grow more alert to the way the Trinity invites you to live as an ambassador of Christ in your daily life. Offer your limitations, your blindness, your weakness by joining them with Jesus on the altar of his cross. Express your deepest desire to Jesus (as blind Bartimaeus expressed his desire to see). Be attentive to how Jesus responds to you, and resolve to act on it as you say, Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and forever, Amen.
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