Last week, we bade Fr. Mars, one of our priests, a final farewell.  After almost two years of battling with cancer, he succumbed and gave up his last breath.  He was my friend and my parish companion. As we mourned for him, I couldn’t help but recall the very words of the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel: “The harvest if great, but the laborers are few.  Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into his harvest.”  (Luke 10:2)
Let me reflect with you on the life and mission of a priest. You may not be ordained priests, but hopefully, you will come to realize how connected you are to the life of the priests you know in your church community.
The gospel points out three moments in the life of a priest.  First, Jesus calls men to be his priests.  God calls these men to serve him.  We may jokingly tell a person: “Why don’t you go and become a priest!”  I hope it’s that simple.  You see, there is a mystery involved. God chooses, a man responds and God confirms his choice.  “Many are called but few are chosen.”
Second, priests are sent on a mission. We do not send ourselves, nor do we choose where we want to go.  We wait for God’s will to unfold and then we follow. The sending is the easy part.  The gospel says the way people receive us is where the challenge enters.  Some people will welcome us.  Some people will close doors.  To the open hearts, share the peace of the Lord. To those who close doors, give the warning that they have refused God’s grace.
St. Paul speaks of himself as a bearer of the marks of Jesus in his body (Gal 6:17b). That means, he suffered for his mission.  Every priest today suffers from opposition, gossip and indifference he receives from the people he serves. A priest prays for you, works for you, lives close to you. But not all appreciate his unique contribution in their lives.  Surprisingly, it’s the simple folks who are most sensitive to the blessings of having a priest in their midst.
Last week, I took a tricycle going home to the rectory. I was surprised when the driver took time during the trip to say how much he appreciated what I have been doing for the parish. He said, he noticed how things changed for the better, and that his devotion to God was definitely affected by it.  Some people only look for the fault in priests. And this driver, so different, was a breath of fresh air!
Third, there is a reward waiting in heaven for a priest.  Jesus himself said: rejoice that your name is written in heaven!  Who would not rejoice on earth knowing that heaven’s doors are already open for him, provided of course that he remains faithful to the Lord.  I imagine Fr. Mars breezing through the gates of heaven without having to wait too long for his visa processing!

One priest died. So let us pray for more priests to come from our families and schools.  Let us appreciate the priests we now have and pray for them.  Remember that priests are sent by God to be your companions in your quest for newness of life in Christ.