By Vatican News
Pope Francis reflected on ordained ministry at Mass on Thursday, saying Jesus offers this gift to deacons, priests, and bishops so they might serve others.
The occasion for his remarks was the presence of a group of priests and bishops celebrating their silver jubilee, or 25 years of ordination.
The Pope invited everyone to reflect on the day’s first reading (1 Tim 4:12-16), in which St Paul invites Timothy not to neglect the gift of ordained ministry.
“It is not a job contract: ‘I have to do it’. The act of doing is in the second place. I must receive the gift and care for it, and from there flows all the rest: in contemplation of the gift. When we forget this, appropriate the gift, and turn it into a function, then we lose the heart of ministry and lose Jesus’ gaze who looked upon us and said: ‘Follow me.’ Gratuitousness is lost.”
Risk of self-centered ministry
Pope Francis then warned everyone against the risk of making ministry into a self-centered exercise.
If we do not contemplate the gift we have received, he said, “all the deviations we can imagine are unleashed, from the most horrible – which are terrible – to the most mundane, which make us turn our ministry into being about us, rather than about the gratuitousness of the gift and about our love for He who gave us the gift of ministry.”
First contemplate, then act
The Pope invited deacons, priests, and bishops to contemplate their ministry and service as a gift. We do what we can, he said, with good intentions, intelligence, and “even with a little cunning”, but always taking care of the gift.
It is human to forget this aspect, said Pope Francis, as the Pharisee does in the day’s Gospel (Lk 7:36-50) when he forgets several rules of hospitality as he welcomes Jesus to his table.
“There was this man, a good man, a good Pharisee but he had forgotten the gift of courtesy, the gift of hospitality – which is also a gift. Gifts are always forgotten when there is some sort of self-interest involved, when I want to do this or that thing – always doing, doing… Yes, we priests must all do things, and our first task is to proclaim the Gospel, but we must take care of our center, our source from which our mission flows, which is the gift we have freely received from the Lord.”
God guides the gift
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a prayer for all the Church’s ordained ministers.
May the Lord “help us to care for this gift, to consider our ministry above all as a gift, then as service”, he prayed.
In this way, said the Pope, ministers can avoid becoming “businessmen or do-gooders”.