Mass celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at Amberley Retreat Centre


My dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
In the Gospel we have just read we are confronted by the announcement of Jesus to his disciples that he would undergo the passion, death and resurrection.  The Paschal mystery of dying and rising is at the centre of our priesthood.  Every time we celebrate Mass we are in persona Christi.  So the humility and obedience of his early life, the teaching and strong relationship with his Father of his adult life and the resolute commitment to follow through that from which he shrank - suffering and death - are all part of our life.  All made possible because of our love of Jesus and his Father.  All made possible because we come to resurrection and new life.
Today I want to talk about the pastoral ministry.  Our priesthood is not an aggrandisement of ourselves.  It is a being configured to Christ so that through our leaving aside of our own will he can do great things.  Today’s Gospel picks out if anyone wants to be first he must be the servant of all.  He showed his practical welcome of children.  He stressed through Saint Paul the glory in the cross of our Saviour.

Our call to priesthood is a call which always originates in the people of God and which is surrounded by so much goodness that we are challenged and lifted up by the heroic devotion of our people.  We have the priesthood not as a possession for ourselves, but as a means to service.  That means the way we arrange things in our life and in our parish is not around our own convenience or what we consider our own position, but how best to serve our people.     We share with the bishop in the threefold munus which the Father gave to Jesus; sanctification, teaching and leadership. 
Jesus’ constancy is summed up very effectively in the first Reading.  If we aspire to serve the Lord, be prepared for an ordeal.  We cling to the Lord, are prepared for humiliation, following the straight path, waiting for his mercy, not turning aside in case we fall and trusting him.  The challenge of Sirach, ‘whoever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame for the Lord is compassionate and merciful’, describes perfectly our relationship as priests of the new covenant.  The priesthood is not about our own convenience, but it is about the power and wonder of God taking possession of our frail humanity and using it to serve God’s people.
Holiness means that we become like God and that our relationship with Christ enters into our own life of prayer as he related to the Father and is there at the disposal of our people.  As priests wherever we go we should speak of the love of God, his mercy and forgiveness.  People who meet us should go away enriched with God’s love.  We need to pray ourselves, to pray with our people, to be seen praying in the church and to make the Mass our great prayer.  Every action of ours in the church helps people focus on the God who is near.
In our teaching the straight path of God’s revealed love for us must be shown in that we speak of God rather than human things, we lead our people to deal with the issues of today, but to be drawn into the marvellous love of Jesus.  Priest and people, we need to trust in the Lord and do good to find our delight in the Lord.  Our leadership will be shown in this as a servant leadership if we can mirror God’s care and love for us. 
Our parish is about what we can do for our people, how we can be “for” them, how we can lead them in prayer, how we remind them of the Commandments, the Sacraments, the teaching of the Church and how that love is shown in action through visitation, listening, encouragement, especially by care for the sick and those who are worried, by time seemingly wasted by being for our people.  We need to protect the lives of the upright, to remind our people that God never forsakes his friends, to be sure that God is our stronghold in times of distress and to know that our great recommendation is that we are given as Jesus gave himself totally for others for the life of the world.
+ Denis J. Hart,
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