WHAT THE CHURCH TAUGHT ME ABOUT PRIESTHOOD. VOL 6, NO. 2

As priests are ordained to exercise the threefold function of Christ as shepherd, priest and prophet, the essential tasks of the priest include, namely: to teach, to sanctify and to govern according to the heart of God (cf. Jeremiah 3:15). The ‘Word’ and the ‘Sacrament’ are the two main pillars of priestly service.
He is a teacher of God’s word since the people of God are formed into one in the first place by the word of the Living God (1 Peter 1:23, Acts 6:7; 12:24; 1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:7-9). In the confusion and disorientation of our times, the priest renders present the light of the Word of God, the light that is Christ himself. The priest teaches in the name of Christ present, proclaiming the Word of God, the faith of the Church and does not invent, does not create and does not proclaim his own ideas or what pleases him. He himself submits to the Word he teaches, internalises it and lives by it in profound communion with Christ himself. Like Christ, the priest can also say of himself: “My teaching is not mine (John 7:16).
His words and works, teaching of the true ecclesial doctrine, in harmony with the apostolic tradition, rather than with the spirit of prevailing culture or mentality, testify to the teaching of Christ, who is himself the Truth, with which, by which and in which to live. In this prophetic task of the priest, putting us in contact with the truth, helping us to know the essential of our life, of reality itself, all can recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd. “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).
The priest is also a man of the sacraments and the worship of the church: through Baptism, he brings souls to birth; nourishes them in the Eucharist, as our Lord Himself did at the Last Supper; reinforces them in confirmation; through the sacrament of Penance, he purifies them; in Matrimony, he prepares and literally actualizes in them God’s mandate to multiply; and at their death, he helps them to appear before God by giving them final forgiveness and the supreme strength.
Because of the nature of the priest as a pastor, he is called to be a servant-leader of God’s people in union with Christ who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He is to govern and guide the people entrusted to his care with the authority of Christ, not with his own, leading the flock where the Lord wills, not in the direction which seems most convenient and easy. This is the true expression of pastoral charity which forms the heart priestly ministry in complete faithfulness to Christ and to the Church. It is the gift of self, the total gift of self to the Church, following the example of Christ, priest and victim.

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