[As a parish priest, and from my reading of today’s general audience with Pope Francis, I pray that I–along with all my brother deacons, priests and bishops–are more and more conformed to Jesus Christ, the High Priest as “a loving servant of His people”. Please keep each of us in your daily prayers. Finally, thanks to so many of my parishioners who encourage me, challenge me, and offer loving prayers for me: I have been greatly blessed here at the Church of St. Mary!]
Vatican City ( AsiaNews) – Bishops and priests are placed “at the head”, or in other words “at the service” of the community entrusted to them , that is their “family” and not their “property”. A bishop who is not in the service of the community does not do good, a priest who is not in the service of his community does no good, they are wrong”. “So let us help them continue to pray” and “pray for those who are in difficulty”.
The sacrament of Holy Orders was the focus of Pope Francis audience with 60 thousand people present in St Peter’s Square , where he was greeted by a fanfare from the trumpets of Italy’s famed military Bersaglieri troopers.
On a drizzly day – “I see that you are brave with this rain that wants to drive you away” – the Pope said that “there are sacraments which correspond to two specific vocations: Holy Orders and Matrimony. They constitute two major pathways through which the Christian can make his or her life a gift of love, following the example and in the name of Christ, and thus cooperate in the building of the Church”.
“Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the sacrament of pastoral ministry. Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock and in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ. Care for the flock of Jesus not with the power of human strength, one’s own power, but that of the Spirit, and according to his heart – the heart of Jesus – that is a heart of love. The bishop, priest and deacon must feed the Lord’s flock with love. If they do not do this with love, they are no use. It is in this sense, that the ministers, who are chosen and consecrated to this service, prolong the presence of Jesus in time. They do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God and with love”.
“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. Yes, they are “at the head” but for Jesus this means authority in service, as he himself has shown and taught his disciples”. “A bishop who is not in the service of the community does not good. A priest, who is not at the service of his community, does no good. They are wrong”.
“Another characteristic of this sacramental union with Christ is passionate love for the Church. Think of that passage from the Letter to the Ephesians, where St Paul says that Christ “loved the Church and gave himself up for Her to make Her holy, purifying Her by washing of water through the Word and to present the church to himself in splendor, without blemish or wrinkle or any such thing. Pursuant to Holy Orders, the minister devotes himself entirely to his community and loves it with all his heart, it is his family. The bishop, the priest, love the church in their community and their love for it is strong. How? Just as Christ loves the Church. St. Paul himself says of marriage: the groom loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is a great mystery of love, this ministry and that of marriage, the two sacraments through which people usually go, as a sacrament, to the Lord”.
“The apostle Paul advises his disciple Timothy not to neglect, indeed, to rekindle the gift that is in him: the gift that was given to him by the laying on of hands. When one fails to nourish the ministry, the ministry of bishop, the priestly ministry with prayer, listening to the Word of God, and with the daily celebration of the Eucharist and also with an attendance of the Sacrament of Penance, one will inevitably lose sight of the true meaning of its service and the joy that comes from a deep communion with Jesus. A bishop who does not pray, the bishop who does not feel and hear the Word of God, who does not celebrate Mass every day, who does not go to confession regularly, and the same priest who does not do these things, in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become a mediocrity that is not good for the Church. This is why we need to help the bishops, the priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God which is their daily bread, to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to go to confession regularly. And this is so important because it goes towards the sanctification of bishops and priests”.
And finally, the Pope asked, “How does one become a priest? Where are the entrance tickets sold? It is an initiative that the Lord takes. The Lord calls: calling everyone who wants to become a priest, and perhaps there are some young people here who have felt that call in their hearts. The desire to become priests, the desire to serve others in the things that come from God. The desire to spend one’s entire life in service to catechize, baptize, forgive, celebrate the Eucharist to the sick … but, all of one’s life! If any of you have heard this in your heart, it is Jesus who put him there! Care for this invitation and pray that this will grow and bear fruit for the entire Church”.