Fr. Christopher Gray
Special to the Intermountain Catholic
As a priest, I strive to share the Gospel with others, whether through teaching or through modeling my life after the lives of Christ and his apostles. This is a need, based in love.
Being a priest is more than just a job; it is a dedication for life, a vocation in the truest sense of the word. When someone answers this calling and becomes a priest, he makes enormous sacrifices for the sake of serving the Church. He sacrifices a family. He sacrifices the ability to seek a high-paying job. He sacrifices all his time so that others may have access to the holy things: the Gospel, the sacraments, the teaching of the Church. If being a priest were simply just a job, these sacrifices would not be worth offering.
Priests embrace these sacrifices for the same reason anyone sacrifices things: out of love for whom and for what they are making the sacrifice. Sacrifice means giving up things we do not want to give up as a true expression of love. In the same way that parents sacrifice much for their children and God sacrificed his Son for us, a priest sacrifices these things out of love for the Church, which is built up by the faithful. What makes the everyday sacrifices in the life of a priest meaningful is that our love for our flock causes us to desire our responsibilities and find joy in our duties.
Catechesis is an act of love for a priest. We follow this path in life because we fell in love with God and his Word, and this love is infectious. The love we have for the Gospel never ceases in the hearts of priests. In fact, there is hardly enough room in our individual hearts to contain this love; the desire to share this love of the Word with others comes from the heart like a necessity of being.
Priests encounter Christ in the sacraments very frequently, and this is a tremendous grace. Through this duty of acting in the person of Christ for our flock, we as priests grow in our understanding of Christ and his mission for his Church. This relationship with Christ is ever-growing, and we find ourselves learning something new about him every day. Just like the people who were the recipients of Jesus’ miracles, just like the disciples who witnessed the resurrected Christ, and just like the saints whose hearts were set ablaze by their love for Christ, it is impossible to keep these daily intuitions about the Gospel to ourselves. This is what drives us to catechize.
There is a reason why a priest is called “father;” he has the same duties and responsibilities as has another man for his wife and children. It is the primary responsibility of parents to be their children’s first teacher, and to instruct their children in ways that form them into productive and virtuous members of society. Priests feel this same responsibility with our flock. We catechize out of love for both what we are teaching and who we are teaching. We desire that our people learn to love the Gospel in the same way we do. Sharing this love of God make all the sacrifices in the world worth it.
Fr. Christopher Gray is pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Park City.