Behold, something greater than me is here – Reflection

Behold, something greater than me is here – Reflection

Young priests can readily consider themselves to be very important.  Their initial zeal builds on their already headstrong naiveté, and with such self-importance, young priests may even foolishly attempt to upstage or outdo Jesus Christ in saving the world.

Thankfully, God can handle young priests… or anyone else caught up in self-importance.  He knows how to reign us in and bring us back to reality.  Certainly, God does this by allowing humiliations to pop the bubble of our supposed importance.  But our Father also has another means, a much more powerful means.  He shows us His greatness.  For in the presence of His mighty love, we realize our littleness, and we humbly and lovingly confess: “Behold, something greater than me is here.”

Throughout this first year of priesthood, God has kept me grounded repeatedly by such encounters with His greatness.  This occurred quite often in helping with our parish’s adult faith formation.  In this ministry, it is my duty, and my delight, to help people seek Jesus.  Yet with a bit of faith, the minister realizes that he is merely a middleman.  Jesus is not merely the subject matter of ministry.  He is the Teacher.  I’m simply His teacher’s assistant.  “Behold, something greater than me is here.”

Concretely, this was the story of RCIA this year for me.  So many people came seeking Jesus, His Church, the Sacraments, and especially the Eucharist.  In hearing their stories, it was clear that Jesus had been seeking each one relentlessly for years, sometimes with great romance.  For He is not just the Teacher intent on instructing them.  Jesus is the Bridegroom seeking to give Himself to His chosen ones.  I am simply and happily His friend, who has the simple task of not messing up a decade-long love story.  He must increase.  I must decrease.  “Behold, something greater than me is here.”

In an even greater way, God taught me this lesson at Mass, especially at the consecration of the Eucharist.  Holding the host in my hands, I ponder how St. Joseph felt at Christmas, in the manger, when Mary first put the Christ Child in his hands.  As a father, Joseph is charged with raising and protecting this weak yet precious infant.  As a believer, Joseph reveres his Son as the Lord of Hosts who created the heavens, vanquished Pharoah and His charioteers, and took flesh to achieve the New Passover.  I may hold the host in my hands, but the Lord holds me in His.  “Behold, something greater than me is here.”

This moment of the consecration is all the more striking during these strange days of our sacramental exile due to the pandemic.  Young priests are sometimes tempted to treat congregations like audiences, and thus, we fall into that self-importance again, treating Jesus like a mere subject matter of His rhetorical prowess.  This pandemic is curing that.  While your priests intentionally remember the whole parish to each Mass, the physical absence of a congregation highlights the one who is never absent: Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest.  He still presides at every Mass.  I am simply His minister.  “Behold, something greater than me is here.”

This Corpus Christi Sunday, we certainly pray for the return to public Mass, especially that it will be quick and healthy.  But may we not return to normal.  May Christ the Teacher give us faith to adore His Presence with a vigilant love, and may Christ our Bridegroom win our hearts that we would be wholeheartedly His.  And in the radiance of His mighty love, may we confess with all humility and joy: “Behold, something greater than us is here.”

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Joseph Hagan, o.p.

Published in our bulletin June 14, 2020