The ordained ministry is a gift from the Lord, "who looked upon us and told us ‘Follow me’." The failure to contemplate the gift leads to "all the deviations we know".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his homily at this morning’s Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said that the priestly ministry is "a gift" that we turn into a “function” when we forget and use it for ourselves. The heart of the ministry, be it episcopal or presbyterial, is thus lost. Failing to contemplate the gift leads to "all the deviations we know".
The pontiff spoke before numerous bishops and priests. In his address, he mentioned those celebrating the 25th anniversary of their ordination, as well Card Edoardo Menichelli, archbishop emeritus of Ancona, who will soon be 80.
The Holy father also invited everyone, himself included, to think about the word "gift" as cited in the First Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, from today's liturgy, the ordained ministry as a gift from the Lord, "who looked upon us and told us ‘Follow me’.” The ministry is not a service, certainly not" a function nor a work agreement.
Speaking about Saint Paul’s words to the young disciple, Francis said "Do not neglect the gift that is in you”. He noted that the ministry "is not a work agreement. ‘I have to do.’ Doing is in the background. I have to receive the gift and keep it as a gift and from there everything comes, in contemplation of the gift. When we forget this, we take possession of the gift and turn it into function, we lose the heart of the ministry, we lose the gaze of Jesus who looked upon us all and told us: ‘Follow me’. We lose the sense of giving selflessly.”
"From failing to contemplate the gift, the ministry as a gift, come all those deviations that we know, from the worst, which are terrible, to the most ordinary ones, which make us focus our ministry on ourselves, not on the gratitude for the gift and the love for the One who gave us the gift, the gift of ministry."
This gift, Francis said citing the Apostle Paul, "brought by a prophetic word with the laying of hands by priests" applies to bishops as well as "all priests". Emphasising "the importance of contemplating the ministry as a gift and not as a function", the pontiff added that we must do what we can do with good will, intelligence, "even some cleverness", but always guarding this gift.
To forget a gift’s centrality is human, as it was with the Pharisee who in the Gospel of Luke hosted Jesus in his home, neglecting "so many rules of hospitality", neglecting the gifts. Jesus pointed this out to him, indicating the woman who gives everything that the host had forgotten: water for the feet, the welcoming kiss and the anointing of the head with oil.
"There is this man who was good, a good Pharisee, but he had forgotten the gift of courtesy, the gift of living with others, which is also a gift. We always forget the gifts when there is some interest behind, when I want to do this, doing, doing . . . Yes, we must, priests, all of us do things and the first task is to proclaim the Gospel, but it is necessary to preserve the gift, take care of the centre, the source from which our mission springs, which is the gift we freely received from the Lord.”
In his final prayer, Francis called on the Lord to "help us guard the gift, see our ministry primarily as a gift, only then as a service", so as not to ruin it "and become entrepreneurial ministers, fixers". Far too many things drive us away from contemplating the gift and the Lord, "who gave us the gift of ministry".