My dear Brothers in the Priesthood,
In this time of Easter the Risen Christ shines upon us because of the power of his passion and resurrection.
Today’s Gospel invites us to receive the Lord’s Commandments and keep them as a test of our love. Our Lord immediately gives the reassurance that if we love Christ the love of the Father will come to be with us. So our work involves keeping God’s Word, knowing the love of the Father and being united with him.
We remember that our words are not our own as priests, they are always those of Christ and the Father.
One important thing to remember in our ministry is that the Spirit will teach us and keep us in touch with the Word of God and the mission given to us. These days of reflection help us to review whether in all facets of our life there is a unity in priesthood. We know that Our Lord was not content to leave his people with simply the memory of his redeeming love. Jesus has chosen certain followers to continue his work until the end of time. Thus all that we do is the continuation of that work of Christ.
We do have a responsibility for our balance of prayer and work, for our teaching to be adequately prepared, to care for our health and ensure by all of these things that our witness is always that of Christ and that the compassion that we show is always coming from him. Allowing the Spirit to witness in our ministry means that we allow God to guide our mind, heart and will.
The priesthood is a life of sacrifice and of service because it is the life of Christ. Yet we remember where there is love sacrifice is possible, in addition to administering the Sacraments we have a number of apostolic and charitable assignments. I have mentioned that prayer, work, and leisure are necessary for a healthy life, while we try and achieve a balance but we do not always succeed. In the year of ministry most of us have one main occupation in our parish. Others are hospital chaplains with predictable hours and demands. However, let us not be afraid of the unpredictable which is so interesting and challenging. They centre around meeting the needs of people; the sick, the old, the angry, the hurt, the hungry, the imprisoned, the excited and the happy. And we have to bring our tranquil appreciation of the role of Christ in their lives. We rejoice and cry and feel with them.
In the development of your vocation you found these qualities have grown –
a. to know and love and serve God wholeheartedly,
b. To desire to bring God’s love and grace to the world for the salvation of souls,
c. Over time you have received an interior attraction to the priesthood with a certain sense of joy and peace in the priestly life.
If we can be willing to serve the Lord as his priests that is a sign that he wants us to continue. Obviously a generous heart and a willingness to sacrifice are important if we are physically, intellectually and psychologically capable of living the priestly life.
One fundamental point is that in the priesthood we place our talents and qualifications and time at the service of others. Our superiors who give us an appointment, others who work with us and it is in this that we find our fulfilment and find strength even when things are a bit of a struggle. As the years go by our prayer life can become simpler and more focussed. Much prayer rather than many prayers. Seeing the contact with people, the sacraments we give, as means by which we bring Christ to others and w are drawn to him.
Let us ask ourselves to trust the Lord and trust his Church, so that we are ready to do whatever is asked of us and are reassured that then we are doing God’s will and are part of his plan for the saving of the world. The priesthood is about what we can be for others and in which we find our joy. We do not seek attention; we give it because we have the mind and heart of Christ for others. This is the secret of the priesthood.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.