Generous Servers of God’s People

By Mario Attard
Times of Malta
May 13, 2012

Priests prostate themselves during their ordination ceremony. Photo: AFP

The recent case of a defrocked priest being cleared of rape has reopened the fresh wounds of clerical abuse.

Last year the same priest together with another one were sentenced to six years and five years in jail respectively after being found guilty of sexually abusing minors under their care. Obviously their case has stirred different reactions from various quarters of society.

It is neither my intention nor my competency to pass judgments concerning these sad events. Anyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear and a mind to reflect can easily discern and arrive at his own conclusions about the matter.

However, it is my duty as a priest to encourage my fellow brothers in the ministerial priesthood to persevere in “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” (Phil. 4, 8).

As priests, we need to cherish the sacramental grace of the priesthood that we received on the day we were ordained as God’s ministers to serve His flock. Serving wholeheartedly and generously is the bottom line of priestly ministry.

My hospital ministry continually makes me realise how much people who are in distress can, in effect, temper my pastoral service. They show me how to listen and accompany them. They are my teachers who teach me how to serve them better.

After eight years of serving the sick I am becoming aware that St Paul’s advice to the Corinthians is principally a direct counsel to us priests: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (Cor. 9, 7).

The Bible informs us that Jesus Christ is the exemplar of what it means to be a cheerful giver. It needs both a brave and a cheerful giver to enter into the synagogue of one’s hometown and applying to oneself the messianic programme prophesised by the prophet Isaiah some 500 years before:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has annointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4, 18-19).

Jesus was fully conscious that his mission was that of healing and saving people from every kind of oppression, be it sickness, prejudice, hatred, demonic possession and so forth. He perfectly knew that his liberating way of behaviour would squarely clash with the pharisaic rigidity of his days. Nevertheless He was adamant in carry out His saving work up to the point of offering His life as a ransom for those He generously served: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10, 11).

We priests are called by the Father, sent by the Son and annointed by the Holy Spirit’s power to address any situation of human suffering. Like Jesus, we are commissioned to heal the sick, console the afflicted, feed the hungry, offer hope to the lost and tormented by life’s trials.

People keep coming to our houses because they seek God’s guiding loving care. In us, they behold Christ’s care, perhaps more than we are aware of. Our pastoral responsibility is great indeed.

A Church devoid of its ministers is inconceivable. St John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of priests, said: “Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth... What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door?

“The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods... Leave a parish for 20 years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there. The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”

Generous service defines the moral calibre of us priests.









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