Within the past month I have lost two parishioners who I have truly come to admire and should I say love. Both men were strong in their faith, very conscious of their imperfections and extremely thankful to God for the blessings of their spouses and children. Seldom does a priest get to know such parishioners in such a limited amount of time and my life has been blessed by their presence in it, along with countless others I have met over the year.
What causes such a special relationship between priest and parishioner? Well, as with any relationship it must be built from both sides. The lay person has to be willing to give oneself, to become known by the priest and in turn the priest must be willing to be human, not mechanical. I strongly believe that today's priests are all too often wrapped up in their own world. I for one, try to be different.
When I describe myself as different, I do not mean it in the weird sense, but rather unique in the personal sense. I love being a priest because of the ministry which I am privledged to perform. This ministry is not just sacramental, but social. One of the pastors who I have been honored to serve with put it this way, "Ministry of presence is the key to a good minster." Yet, the way we live our lives sometimes contradicts that way of thinking.
But I digress...I try (and yes sometimes I miss the mark) to be present to all of God's people. And many times I feel like an outsider, because of those I would like to know better not including me into their lives -- and it can hurt. I can only imagine what Jesus felt like when He tried to get close to someone and they turned away. How it must of hurt to watch His disciples walk away when He needed them.
Ministry of presence really does mean something. While I might not always have something profound to say, just being their means a great deal. As followers of he Lord, we can all be more present to one another, removing ourselves from our own designs and building a better community.
Eternal rest grant to them our Lord and perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.