CANBERRA, Australia, JUNE 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn is affirming that the priesthood is more than a job; it is a special call to holiness through sacrificial love and service to others.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge affirmed this in a letter to the people of his archdiocese, dated June 9, on the occasion of the Year for Priests that will start Friday.
Benedict XVI has “invited the whole Church to celebrate a Year of the Priesthood,” he acknowledged, a “time to focus upon the mystery of the ministerial priesthood and the great gift it is at the heart of the Church.”
The archbishop pointed to Jesus, who is “both the priest and the victim” that sacrifices himself on the Cross.
He continued: “On Calvary, we see the perfect self-sacrificing love which is eternally the heart of the Trinity and therefore the heart of all things.
“Between the Father and the Son there is an eternal dynamic of perfect self-sacrificing love which overflows into the creation and into the human heart as the Holy Spirit who draws all into that eternal dynamic.
“On the Cross, the eternal self-sacrificing love enters time; and into that same love the whole Church is drawn from age to age as a priestly people.”
Some men, the prelate added, are “called into that love in a special way for the building up of the priestly people.”
He explained that “when Jesus calls a man into this mystery of self-sacrificing love as a priest, he is calling him above all to live the mystery of the Cross.”
If not, the archbishop added, “if the priesthood is not an experience of self-sacrificing love, then inevitably it will become a kind of loveless clericalism, more concerned with power and prestige than with the priesthood of the crucified Lord.”
“At the altar,” he said, “which is the epicenter of the priesthood, the priest speaks words which are not his own:” This is my body given for you; this is my blood poured out for you.
“Christ calls priests not only to speak these which are his words, but also to live the mystery of the Body and Blood which is his own sacrifice,” the prelate added.
Archbishop Coleridge affirmed: “The call of Jesus is total, as was his death on the Cross and his resurrection from the dead.
“His call claims the mind, the heart, the soul and the body of a man — which is why the ministerial priesthood is much more than a job. The priesthood is hard work, but it is not just a job.
“It is a job and a marriage rolled into one with something extra as well. That something extra is a special call to holiness.”
This holiness, he explained, means to be set apart for the sake of service. “If service is not there,” he added, “then the priesthood will decay into clericalism.”
The archbishop explained that the priest serves primarily “by living the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, sacrificing himself in love for the building up of the Church.”
He encouraged Catholics to “celebrate and ponder the gift of the ministerial priesthood,” to pray for priests and “give thanks for their tireless service of which only God can take the full measure.”
“We will also ask the Lord to send us more priests,” the prelate affirmed, “who can fill the Church with the glory of Christ by emptying themselves in his name.”
He noted that the priestly year will be celebrated with various activities on a parish and archdiocesan level, and expressed the hope that it will lead all people “to know and love more deeply the mystery of the priesthood of Jesus.”
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