By Andrea Tornielli
In the face of the identity crisis experienced by priests, men and women religious, the way is to return to Nazareth. It is, “to the places from which we were called, where it was clear that the initiative and the power was from God”. Speaking to them in the Cathedral of Maputo, Pope Francis added a further piece to the identity of those who consecrate their lives to God and to the service of their brothers and sisters. He did so by comparing the two announcements that Luke speaks about in the first stages of his Gospel: the announcement to Zechariah, priest and father of John the Baptist, which took place in the Temple of Jerusalem, in the most sacred place of the most important city, and then to Mary, a young lay woman in Nazareth, a small and remote village of Galilee.
“At times,” the Pope explained, “without wanting it, and with no moral fault, we get used to identifying our daily activity as priests, religious, consecrated persons, laypersons, catechists, with certain rituals, with meetings and conversations, where our presence in those meetings, at the table or in the hall is ‘hierarchical’. Then we are more like Zechariah than like Mary.” Instead, precisely "the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men”. The priest, Francis added, is the most foolish of men if Jesus does not instruct him patiently as he did Peter, the most defenceless of Christians if the Good Shepherd does not strengthen him in the midst of the flock. “No one is more ‘little’ than a priest left to his own devices”.
One can get out of the identity crisis if “our weariness is related to our ability to show compassion", that is, in the daily sharing of the lives of people, in the commitments “in which our hearts are moved and deeply touched”. In this way, one rediscovers the way of service, the way of Nazareth, trusting not in one's own strengths, in one's own structures, in one's own skill or in one's own strategies, but only in God who "has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly”.