Read this at Zenit it is taken from the Holy Father's Homily at The Chrism Mass and made for good reading and think about the priests I have encountered through the years and currently. All good but all different but I was able to receive / take something from all of them.
So read through and reflect on the priests you have met through your life and currently have and also maybe we say a little prayer to make sure we have good young priests coming through to serve. God Bless!
A priest who is close to his people walks among them with the closeness and tenderness of a good shepherd’
Dear brother priests of the Diocese of Rome and other dioceses throughout the world!
When I was reading the texts of today’s liturgy, I kept thinking of
the passage from Deuteronomy: “For what great nation is there that has a
god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon
him?” (4:7). The closeness of God… our apostolic closeness.
In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, we contemplate the Servant,
“anointed and sent” among his people, close to the poor, the sick, the
prisoners… and the Spirit who is “upon him”, who strengthens and
accompanies him on his journey.
In Psalm 88, we see how the closeness of God, who led King David by
the hand when he was young, and sustained him as he grew old, takes on
the name of fidelity: closeness maintained over time is called fidelity.
The Book of Revelation brings us close to the Lord who “comes” – Erchómenos –
in person. The words “every eye will see him, even those who pierced
him” makes us realize that the wounds of the Risen Lord are always
visible. The Lord always comes to us, if we choose to draw near, as
“neighbours”, to the flesh of all those who suffer, especially children.
At the heart of today’s Gospel, we see the Lord through the eyes of his own people, which were “fixed on him” (Lk 4:20).
Jesus stood up to read in his synagogue in Nazareth. He was given the
scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled it until he found, near the
end, the passage about the Servant. He read it aloud: “The Spirit of the
Lord is upon me, because he has anointed and sent me…” (Is 61:1).
And he concluded by challenging his hearers to recognize the closeness
contained in those words: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in
your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
Jesus finds the passage and reads it with the proficiency of a
scribe. He could have been a scribe or a doctor of the law, but he
wanted to be an “evangelizer”, a street preacher, the “bearer of joyful
news” for his people, the preacher whose feet are beautiful, as Isaiah
This is God’s great choice: the Lord chose to be close to his people.
Thirty years of hidden life! Only then did he began his preaching. Here
we see the pedagogy of the Incarnation, a pedagogy of inculturation,
not only in foreign cultures but also in our own parishes, in the new
culture of young people…
Closeness is more than the name of a specific virtue; it is an
attitude that engages the whole person, our way of relating, our way of
being attentive both to ourselves and to others… When people say of a
priest, “he is close to us”, they usually mean two things. The first is
that “he is always there” (as opposed to never being there: in that
case, they always begin by saying, “Father, I know you are very busy…”).
The other is that he has a word for everyone. “He talks to everybody”,
they say, with adults and children alike, with the poor, with those who
do not believe… Priests who are “close”, available, priests who are
there for people, who talk to everyone… street priests.
One of those who learned from Jesus how to be a street preacher was
Philip. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that he went about
evangelizing in all the cities and that they were filled with joy (cf.
8:4.5-8). Philip was one of those whom the Spirit could “seize” at any
moment and make him go out to evangelize, moving from place to place,
someone capable of even baptizing people of good faith, like the court
official of the Queen of the Ethiopians, and doing it right there at the
roadside (cf. Acts 8:5.36-40).
Closeness is crucial for an evangelizer because it is a key attitude in the Gospel (the Lord uses it to describe his Kingdom). We
can be certain that closeness is the key to mercy, for mercy would not
be mercy unless, like a Good Samaritan, it finds ways to shorten
distances. But I also think we need to realize even more that closeness
is also the key to truth. Can distances really be shortened where truth
is concerned? Yes, they can. Because truth is not only the definition of
situations and things from a certain distance, by abstract and logical
reasoning. It is more than that. Truth is also fidelity (émeth).
It makes you name people with their real name, as the Lord names them,
before categorizing them or defining “their situation”.
We must be careful not to fall into the temptation of making idols of
certain abstract truths. They can be comfortable idols, always within
easy reach; they offer a certain prestige and power and are difficult to
discern. Because the “truth-idol” imitates, it dresses itself up in the
words of the Gospel, but does not let those words touch the heart. Much
worse, it distances ordinary people from the healing closeness of the
word and of the sacraments of Jesus.
Here, let us turn to Mary, Mother of priests. We can call upon her as
“Our Lady of Closeness”. “As a true mother, she walks at our side, she
shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love”, in such a way that no one feels left out (Evangelii Gaudium,
286). Our Mother is not only close when she sets out “with haste” to
serve, which is one means of closeness, but also by her way of
expressing herself (ibid., 288). At the right moment in Cana, the tone
with which she says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”, will
make those words the maternal model of all ecclesial language. But to
say those words as she does, we must not only ask her for the grace to
do so, but also to be present wherever the important things are
“concocted”: the important things of each heart, each family, each
culture. Only through this kind of closeness can we discern that wine
that is missing, and what is the best wine that the Lord wants to
I suggest that you meditate on three areas of priestly closeness
where the words, “Do everything Jesus tells you”, need to be heard – in a
thousand different ways but with the same motherly tone – in the hearts
of all those with whom we speak. Those words are “spiritual
accompaniment”, “confession” and “preaching”.
Closeness in spiritual conversation. Let us reflect on this by
considering the encounter of the Lord with the Samaritan woman. The
Lord teaches her to discern first how to worship, in spirit and in
truth. Then, he gently helps her to acknowledge her sin. Finally, he
infects her with his missionary spirit and goes with her to evangelize
her village. The Lord gives us a model of spiritual conversation; he
knows how to bring the sin of the Samaritan woman to light without its
overshadowing her prayer of adoration or casting doubt on her missionary
Closeness in confession. Let us reflect on this by considering
the passage of the woman caught in adultery. It is clear that here
closeness is everything, because the truths of Jesus always approach and
can be spoken face to face. Looking the other in the eye, like the
Lord, who, after kneeling next to the adulteress about to be stoned,
stood up and said to her, “Nor do I condemn you” (Jn 8:11). This
is not to go against the law. We too can add, “Go and sin no more”, not
with the legalistic tone of truth as definition – the tone of those who
feel that that they have to determine the parameters of divine mercy. On
the contrary, those words need to be spoken with the tone of truth as
fidelity, to enable the sinner to look ahead and not behind. The right
tone of the words “sin no more” is seen in the confessor who speaks them
and is willing to repeat them seventy times seven.
Finally, closeness in preaching. Let us reflect on this by
thinking of those who are far away, and listening to Peter’s first
sermon, which is part of the Pentecost event. Peter declares that the
word is “for all that are far off” (Acts 2:39), and he preaches
in such a way that they were “cut to the heart” by the kerygma, which
led them to ask: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). A question, as
we said, we must always raise and answer in a Marian and ecclesial tone.
The homily is the touchstone “for judging a pastor’s closeness and
ability to communicate to his people” (Evangelii Gaudium, 135).
In the homily, we can see how close we have been to God in prayer and
how close we are to our people in their daily lives.
The good news becomes present when these two forms of closeness
nourish and support one another. If you feel far from God, draw nearer
to your people, who will heal you from the ideologies that cool your
fervour. The little ones will teach you to look at Jesus in a different
way. For in their eyes, the person of Jesus is attractive, his good
example has moral authority, his teachings are helpful for the way we
live our lives. If you feel far from people, approach the Lord and his
word: in the Gospel, Jesus will teach you his way of looking at people,
and how precious in his eyes is every individual for whom he shed his
blood on the Cross. In closeness to God, the Word will become flesh in
you and you will become a priest close to all flesh. Through your
closeness to the people of God, their suffering flesh will speak to your
heart and you will be moved to speak to God. You will once again become
an intercessory priest.
A priest who is close to his people walks among them with the
closeness and tenderness of a good shepherd; in shepherding them, he
goes at times before them, at times remains in their midst and at other
times walks behind them. Not only do people greatly appreciate such a
priest; even more, they feel that there is something special about him:
something they only feel in the presence of Jesus. That is why
discerning our closeness to them is not simply one more thing to do. In
it, we either make Jesus present in the life of humanity or let him
remain on the level of ideas, letters on a page, incarnate at most in
some good habit gradually becoming routine.
Let us ask Mary, “Our Lady of Closeness” to bring us closer to one
another, and, when we need to tell our people to “do everything Jesus
tells them”, to speak with one tone of voice, so that in the diversity
of our opinions, her maternal closeness may become present. For she is
the one who, by her “yes”, has brought us close to Jesus forever.
[Original Text of Pope’s prepared homily: Italian]
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