The Lion on the Pulpit.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. – Isaiah 62:1
The world we live in is one which hates correction. It is deemed a sacred right for modern man to criticize everything and anything besides himself. Preaching the Gospel, in and out of season, is often a daunting task for the priest of God. When he speaks a word of truth, they may turn their backs on him. They may deride him. They may say “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?” He has much to lose in the business of the Gospel- yet he must do it.
When he climbs the pulpit, the priest comes to a place of authority. Taking after the King of Kings, he mounts the heroic place of being the voice of reason in a lost world. Thus, he is a lion on the pulpit. His voice, crying out, counters the devil who: “goes about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). It is the manner of Christ to foil the enemy by his own tactics. Through death, Christ conquered death and through his priest, he becomes a roaring lion to drown out the malicious roar of the devil.
Tensions between the priest and the world become evident in the pulpit. In every soul, there emerges a struggle, a battle between two lions. One calls out for pride, for vanity and all the powers of the world. He roars a command that we behave as animals, truly carnal, and destroy the weak. The other calls out mercy, strength, royalty and virtue. His roar summons us to behave as men, truly saved by God, and to protect the weak. It is Christ in the priest who urges us to turn away from that malicious lion and be perfected in the image of the Divine King.
It is Christ in the priest who consistently urges us to better ourselves. In this, the priest always takes recourse to God and leans not on his own eloquence or merit. He knows any power of his words derives from God and would be the most unworthy to credit himself.
If he preaches the truth in charity, the priest is a peg in sure place. If the priest preaches for popularity, comfort or accolades, he has chosen the wrong vocation. Preaching is oft a thankless job. It is likened to menial service, performed day after day with little or no results. So why does the priest preach? He knows that by his labors, the souls of his children may hear of heaven and allow God’s graces to permeate their hearts. He knows that “faith comes by hearing.” His heart’s true joy is to see prodigal children return and it is for this joy in God, he works.
First and foremost the priest’s concern is the salvation of souls. Everything else comes second. His preaching must be an end to salvation. At all times, he must think “Is it true?” “Is it necessary?” “Will this inspire my people to holiness?” The words of his sermon show labor for souls. If they prick the conscience, they only do so in order to produce repentance. If they chastise, they only do so in order to bind spiritual wounds. Like the lion, they are fierce, relentless, ever challenging the evils of this age. Evil indeed would flourish but by the silence of good men. The priest therefore, is charged with not remaining silent.
To be continued in Part 11, The Lion’s Vigilance.