The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon is another. I Corinthians 15:41
I never thought about it before, but it occurred to me recently that Simon and Garfunkel and Pope John Paul II have at least this one thing in common. They both understood the purpose of a bridge.
Simon and Garfunkel sang, “When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all; I’m on your side. When times get rough and friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down, like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.”
The duo was not talking about priests in particular, but it certainly pertains to the role of a priest for sure.
St. John Paul II said this in his apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis” about the role of a priest: “The human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ.”
While I like the image of a bridge very much and it does apply, my experience makes me think of the moon and a pipe. The moon has no light of its own. It simply reflects the light of the sun. A pipe is simply a tube through which liquids and gases flow from one point to another.
In the case of a priest, he is simply a conduit through whom a meeting between an invisible God and a visible human being is made possible.
A bridge serves its purpose when it is used for transporting people, animals and materials; the moon its purpose when it reflects sun light; a pipe its purpose when it transports liquids and gases; a priest his purpose when he is a medium of God’s love and man’s worship.
When a bridge, the moon, a pipe or a priest become more important than their purpose, problems tend to happen quite quickly.
In the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter and John cured the blind beggar on their way to the temple, the people tried to give them the credit.
Peter had to deflect the credit to God rather than absorb it personally, as if the cure was the result of their own power or piety. Many in ministry start out talking about God and end up talking as if they are gods.
In my own ministry, I try to regularly remind myself that I am like a catalyst in a chemical reaction. I am important only as a medium through which something greater happens.
Something like this happens every Christmas to remind me of these truths. Like the moon, my job is to reflect the light of the sun, not absorb it.
A wonderful couple asks me to find a deserving recipient of their Christmas generosity. I cannot take credit for their generosity. I am only the pipe through which it flows.
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.