One hurdle to overcome is a tendency to see ourselves as messiahs, as the leaders who must be in the forefront of everything and involved in every aspect of parish life. This tendency presents itself because at one time the priest was thought to be the most educated, the better trained, and the leader of the local community. People's expectations at times have not changed that much, even though reality has changed - they still want Father to be at every meeting, at every gathering, always available. Some priests enjoy that, some thrive on it, some are great at it, but as these next years progress, we may find those practices in need of adaptation. Our priorities might need to transition into focusing primarily on a spiritual, liturgical and sacramental experience of service. We cannot do it all. We cannot be messiahs (we already have one).
In our program booklet there was a page that was introduced as
"Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along the Way". The note at the bottom of the page read:
* This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw,
drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979
for a celebration of departed priests.
As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero,
Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage entitled
"The mystery of the Romero Prayer."
The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero,
but they were never spoken by him.
Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along the Way
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace
to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder
and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
These words resonated with me, and gave me a lot to think about. I hope they do so for you as well.