I’m hoping to take a wee bit of a break from the computer during these holy days, but I just have to share this. Pope Francis addressed priests at the chrism mass this morning in Rome. As with all that he has done so far, his words are like a breath of fresh air. There is no mention of the privilege and exclusivity of the priesthood. He calls them all to go out to the outskirts of society, to reach beyond church walls, to be with the people. The words are all the more meaningful, because they are spoken by one who has lived these words. Here are a few quotes….
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith…
It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all. A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart….
It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.
Many years ago, I listened with a heavy heart to a priest preach on Holy Thursday about how special he was, turning our focus on his “priestly, consecrated hands”. How different are the words of Francis. They bring hope for a renewed understanding and respect for the priesthood; something so needed in our church today.
A blessed Holy Thursday to all!