What I am looking forward to most in the priesthood is at the same time what I am most fearful of: celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Confession. In both, as in the mediation of all sacraments, the priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). That is, he stands in Christ’s place, performs Christ’s work, achieves Christ’s goal, all with Christ’s authority given him at ordination. This concept alone puts one in awe.
In the Holy Mass, the priest stands facing God and, not with his back to the people, but as the head and representative of all the people. He performs his work on an altar; on that altar, the mystery of the consecration occurs: the priest, by the power and authority given him, changes ordinary bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. In doing this, he (as Christ did at the Last Supper), offers Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, taking us to the foot of Calvary, and bringing the grace of the Cross to us. To God the priest prays for all of us by representing all of us.
The Sacrament of Confession, so seemingly small being in a tiny room between only two people, carries within it a great intimacy. The believer, mustering in himself the courage to confront and acknowledge his sins, has understood his unworthiness in front of God on account of his sins and desires God’s presence again. In Confession, the penitent goes to Christ but through the mediation of a priest who stands in the place of both Christ and Christ’s Church, because when sin is committed, it offends both. The priest and penitent together enter a holy place; God is present in this tiny room, in fact he fills it. In this room, the love of God conquers the evil of the world, evil committed for years or decades.
The work of a priest is truly the work of God. What I am looking forward to the most in the priesthood is celebrating these two great works of God, these two great sacraments, yet because of their greatness, there is a reverential fear among them.