Fr. TI’s Bio Rev. Fr. Dr. Theophilus Itaman (Fr. TI) is a Catholic Priest of…
When a priest celebrates his ordination, it is actually not about him; it is about the priesthood, which he is a model. It is about Christ, whom he exemplifies. It is about the wonderful work of a Priest and how he touches so many lives. A priest’s ministry and its terrain are like a pond or muddy water-dirty, stinking and malodorous with living creatures. A man is called to purify it and save the creatures in it without being stained. Who can do this? A priest!
Who is a Priest?
A priest is a man ordained by Christ to continue the redemptive work of Christ. A priest is a person specially chosen to proclaim the gospel and lead the faithful to their destiny. One who receives unique power at ordination to consecrate, offer sacrifices, and reconcile sinful people with their God. Simply put, a priest is another Christ. He is a pontifex -a bridge-builder between man and God. He is a prophet sent by God to comfort the disturbed and disturb those comfortable in sin.
The Catholic Priesthood
Unlike the priests of the old, Jesus is both priest and victim. His sacrifice to the father at Calvary was accomplished once for all but made present to us today at each Holy Mass. According to the Catechism of the Church, this same priestly function continues to be carried out through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the priesthood of Christ (CCC 1545). Christ uses this ministerial priesthood to build up His Church. In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas elaborates on the priesthood by stating, “Christ is the source of all priesthood; the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the New Law acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). In his book, The Priest is Not His Own, Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed, “Each time the priest speaks the words of consecration, he applies Calvary and its fruits to a particular place and a particular time.” It indicates that a priest participates in the priesthood of Christ in offering the sacrifice of the Mass for the people.
In addition to offering the sacrifice of the Mass, the priest administers other sacraments. Have you ever stopped to think where we would be without the priesthood? There would be no Eucharist, no forgiveness of sins at the confessional, or Anointing of the sick. No Confirmation and Baptism, no Bishop, no Pope. The priesthood allows Jesus to continue working in His church, for when a priest administers any one of the sacraments, it is actually Christ who is performing the action (CCC 1120).
The priesthood is a beautiful gift to the world. As Heb 5:4 says, no one takes this honour upon himself, but one is called by God just as Aaron was.” God freely gives it to man. It is a favour of God to man; no one is worthy of being a priest; no one is worthy of making Christ present on the altar. It is God’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. The priest is just earth wears carrying a precious gift. So, it is the priesthood of Christ. That is why the life of a priest is a life of gratitude. That is why we must acknowledge that we are mere instruments. As William Bryan says, “In thanksgiving, we acknowledge our dependence.” It indicates that we are what we are because of God. It takes the favour of God for you to excel and be successful in life. To be successful, you must be connected with God, but if you disconnect from God and make God irrelevant in your life, you will be connected with irrelevant things. Ask Peter? When Peter and his companion abandoned Christ and went fishing, they caught nothing but pieces of wood and leaves. It shows that success comes from God. Hence, there is a need for constant gratitude.
It was Fred De-Witt who said, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” The more you give thanks, the more fulfilled you become. Do you know why? Because gratitude enriches the heart and the one who is grateful. Hence, Melody Beattie axiomatically opined that
- Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
- It turns what we have into enough
- It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity,
- It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home,
- A stranger into a friend,
- Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
You can now understand why Joseph Addison said, “There is no more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. Put differently, we are made for the glory of God.
Always Give Glory to God
It is a great virtue always to thank the Lord. Considering thanksgiving as a virtue, CICERO says, “a thankful heart is not only greatest virtue but the parent of all other virtues.” Hence, St. Paul says in 1Thess. 5: 18, “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you.” Often, when we are successful, we think it is by our effort and our intelligence. Let me report to you, “No effort can replace the blessing of God! Because we don’t know this, we thank ourselves and thus acting like the big fool in Lk 12: 16-21. In Nigeria, we would say, “we shall wash it; not we shall thank God. Know this: there is no gratitude without God. At times, we act like the nine lepers; we simply go our way as if we did not receive anything. A friend may remind us, saying, “We will celebrate it,” Then, you will say, I don’t want to make noise about it.’ Really? as my students would say, “LIKE SERIOUSLY.” Have you not heard, “make a joyful noise onto the Lord (Ps. 98:4; Ps. 100:1). That reminds me of a little girl who went to a party and never said thank you to her host because the host said, don’t mention. The fact that we are taught that thanksgiving adds nothing to God’s greatness; does not mean that we should not thank God. Remember, it makes us grow in grace and makes permanent the blessings we have received. In fact, “to speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch heaven.”
Often, we are quick at forgetting the source of our blessings and the need to thank God. Deut 6: 12 says, “Don’t forget the deeds of the Lord.
We gather to thank the Lord for the blessing God has poured upon our priest and his ministry because we have not forgotten the deeds of the Lord. As Pss. 103: 2 say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not the blessings of God.” Though people are often prone to forget the source of their blessings, as Abraham Lincoln noted, our priest has not forgotten God’s blessing in his life, especially when he considers his road to the priesthood, indecisions, health challenges, and people’s reservations, in all that, he succeeded.
Ten years after these trials, here we are celebrating the fact that there is nothing God cannot do and that if God says yes, nobody can say no. Ten years in the ministry is significant because it signals maturity, growth, and bringing one into the senior clergy category. Really, it is not the number of years one spends in the ministry that matters but the quality of services that one has rendered, lives you have touched, and the souls you have saved. Today, considering all these blessings God has bestowed on our father, we have every reason to thank the Lord. Therefore, let us join our father today in thanking the good Lord for the gift of his life, health, priesthood, and his fruitful ministry. Let us pray for him for good health and grace to fulfill his ministry.
“Almighty Father, we implore you, grant this your servant, the dignity of the priesthood, renew within him the spirit of holiness, that he may keep the rank in your service which he had received from you ten years ago and by his conduct affords a pattern of holy living. Amen! May God accept our prayers and thanksgiving today and always through Christ our Lord. Amen. God bless you all.