Pope to priests: go out to the “outskirts” as shepherds

Vatican Radio

Pope to priests: go out to the “outskirts” as shepherds

(Vatican Radio) In Rome this Holy Thursday, Pope Francis celebrated his first Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tracey McClure reports…

In his homily, the Pope began by expressing his joy over celebrating his first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome and he reminded the clergy present that he would be among them in recalling their priestly ordination.

In fact, some 1600 diocesan priests, religious, bishops and cardinals renewed their priestly vows during the morning Liturgy in a St. Peter’s packed, too, with hundreds religious sisters and faithful. This is the mass in which the Bishop of Rome, like those in other dioceses around the world, blesses the oils which will be used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointment of the Sick over the coming year.

Speaking in Italian for the Homily, Pope Francis likened the image of the sacred oil to the kind of selfless evangelical zeal that should characterize the life and work of priests.

This precious oil “does more than simply lend fragrance,” said the Pope. It overflows “down to the edges” of priestly vestments, anointing the poor, prisoners and the sick, those who are sorrowing and alone.”

But, this ointment should not be “kept in a jar” because it “would then become rancid… and the heart bitter.” He invited priests to “go out…to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.”

He suggested that you can tell a good priest by the way his faithful leave Mass “looking as if they have heard good news.” People like it, he said, “when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives…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.”

When people feel the “fragrance” of Christ through their priest, he said, “they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord.” This is a sign, he said, “that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe.”

It is only by “going out” – to the “outskirts,” to the “edges of the robe” that a priest then will experience his “own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy.”

If he seldom “goes out” of himself, a priest “misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart.”

He can therefore risk becoming an “intermediary” or “manager,” rather than a “mediator.” A priest, in other words, should be ready to “put his own skin and his own heart on the line.” These are the priests who earn “a warm, heartfelt word of thanks.”

“Some priests grow dissatisfied and lose heart,” he lamented, and become “collectors of antiques or novelties.”

But the Pope urged them to shake themselves out of this lethargy to become “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep, shepherds in the midst of their flock” and “fishers of men.” He called on them to resist the threat of the “so-called crisis of priestly identity,” and to “put out into the deep” and “cast out” their nets.

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