To lay down one’s life

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“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jn 15:13

These words from the Gospel of John resounded for me in my discernment into seminary, and have continued to strengthen me in my formation to the priesthood. They offer a challenge to all of us, since we are all called to holiness by giving ourselves to Jesus through our love for others. While the call to lay down my life as a priest appeared frightening to me at first, ultimately this has brought about incredible blessings and joy in my life. 

Before entering into seminary, I worked as a winemaker’s assistant at a winery close to my hometown. I enjoyed working outside among the vines, as well as in the cellar among the barrels, and had prospects of turning winemaking into a career. Over time, though, I felt that God was calling me to live a life closer to him by laying down my life as a priest. 

I remember my sister once giving me good advice. She said, “Happiness comes when we give ourselves completely to someone.” While a married man is called to lay down his life for his wife and family, a priest is called to lay down his life for Jesus for the sake of his church. I found myself saying “Why not give myself in this radical way to Jesus as his priest?” I began to stop at the chapel on my way home from work most days, spending time with him in prayer, and asking him to guide me in my vocation. In time, I applied to the Diocese of Arlington, where I found similar men who also wish to lay their lives down for Jesus in this way. 

Ultimately, all of us are invited by Jesus to live a life of holiness by laying down our lives out of love for others. We all feel this calling because we know that our happiness lies in imitating Christ on the cross. By giving ourselves completely for another as he did, we are able find the happiness we all strive to find in our lives. 

Philip Briggs, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, is in his first year of theology studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018