Pope Francis has called on his priests to "learn how to be weary...in the best of ways" as they go about their ministries.
In a homily during the traditional Maundy Thursday “Chrism” mass, a service intended to celebrate the unity of a Bishop with his priests, Pope Francis this morning called on priests to go out “even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery” and “bring the good news to the most abandoned”.
As he reflected on the particular nature of priestly ministry, however, the Pope did not fail to highlight potential shortcomings on the part of his pastors, warning them against experiencing “the weariness of people, the weariness of the crowd”, saying:
“The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sun glasses. There is a good and healthy tiredness. It is the exhaustion of the priest who wears the smell of the sheep... but also smiles the smile of a father rejoicing in his children or grandchildren.
“It has nothing to do with those who wear expensive cologne and who look at others from afar and from above...”
Earlier, the Pope had called on his priests to learn “how to rest”, acknowledging that they too “are sheep”:
“Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly ‘rest in times of weariness’ for me or is he just someone who keeps me busy?”, said the Pope
Speaking to a Basilica of St Peter’s that was packed out with priests, Bishops and Cardinals, the Pope, not for the first time, insisted on recalling the true nature of “the work of a priest”, saying:
“It is [the priest’s task] to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour [next year’s Holy Year]...
“These are not purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying a soccer field for the young of the parish...The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be moved...We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one...”
Pointing out how Christ had “loved his own, loved them to the end”, Pope Francis recalled the scene in the Upper Room before the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
In memory of that moment, which he called the “cleansing of discipleship”, the Pope will on Thursday night wash the feet of a dozen prisoners, six female and six male of Italian, Nigerian, Brazilian and other nationalities, in Rome’s Rebibbia prison.
On Good Friday, the Pope will preside over the “Via Crucis” celebration in the Ancient Colosseum, whilst on Sunday he will celebrate Easter Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter’s prior to bestowing the traditional Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) blessing.