The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew tells us about the call of the twelve apostles, who were the first ministers of the Church. And this chapter ends with an instruction to all Christians — that they should respect and honor those whom God has sent. And this is very relevant in our modern world, in which many people are very fond of quarreling with priests.
So, the Lord called the apostles, and later, through them, the bishops, and through them, the priests, so that they would become His hands and mouth in this world. This is the essence of the priesthood: the Lord acts through us. Salvation is impossible without priests, because it is impossible to be saved without the holy sacraments, the conducting of which the Lord entrusted to the priests.
So in the Gospel we see how Christ acts in our world: when He wants to save you, He sends priests to you. It is through them and the sacraments that they conduct He comes “to every town and village” (Mt 10:11 cf. Lk 10:1).
Therefore, it is written, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One Who sent Me” (Mt 10: 40). Whoever accepts the priest accepts Christ himself, so treat the priests as you would treat Christ himself.
Yes, it should be so, but in our imperfect world, some people like to quarrel with priests. Nothing pleases them as much as gossip how unworthy and indecent priests are. So many fabricated accusations have appeared against priests! Did you hear or read? Those priests, they are drunkards and thieves; and how badly they drive cars!
You know, I recently read with a kind of satisfaction about a trial in France on which the libel case was being investigated has ended. Everything was as usual: the elderly couple accused the local priest of the fact that for 20 years he “molested” the children in various ways. But during the investigation, it was established that the priest was not guilty of anything. The case was closed, and the prosecutor decided to prosecute the couple for “slanderous charges.” The court found that the accusations against the priest had the sole purpose – to cause him trouble. Elderly spouses were sentenced to three months in prison and a fine for libel.
And I thought: how many other similar stories are revolving around our ears! How much more we will hear. And this is because people like to invent. And today the Gospel tells us, “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Mt 10:41). In other words: as you accept the messenger of the Lord, such a reward will be for you. How you will deal with the one whom God sent — thus you will be retributed. Therefore, accept the one whom God sent as if you accept the Lord himself, and help him, do for him what you can, as you would do for Christ. And you will receive a reward from God, because your good deeds will follow you forever (Apoc. 14:13).
You know, of course in the Church there are different priests. Some might be sometimes quite rude and not very attentive (I myself am one of those). But God acts through the priests, regardless of their personal qualities. We are here to serve you and to save you — by baptizing, by forgiving sins, by sanctifying the holy gifts on the altar for you.
The Church has Christ as her Head, and we are members (1Cor. 12:27). Here we are all needed, here we are saved together. Salvation is only in here, and there is no salvation outside the Church.
Here, when we are mistaken, we admit mistakes and apologize. Here we care and pray for each other. Here we all learn to be faithful to Christ, here children imitate adults, and adults imitate the Saints. Here we are all on our way to the Heaven where we will receive our eternal reward.