The 3 M's of the Priesthood

Vatican Official Reflects on Being a Missionary, Mediator, Martyr

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By Roberta Sciamplicotti

ROME, JULY 10, 2011 ( For Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, there are three identities that a priest must incarnate: missionary, mediator and martyr.

The secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples made this statement Saturday in a homily while presiding at the priestly ordination of a Franciscan friar in the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Speaking to the ordinand, Mauro Zannin of Switzerland, the prelate explained the «3 M’s» as he commented on the Gospel for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which contains the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). The Gospel begins with the words «Jesus went out of the house.»

«During the Last Supper Jesus spoke of his Father’s house,» Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai said, emphasizing that «Jesus Christ came from the Father,» and in the Letter to the Hebrews, he «is called ‘apostle,’ that is, ‘the one sent’ from the Father.»

Jesus, he added, «is the only high priest of the New Testament; in him the whole people of God too has been made a priestly people.»

Among all of his disciples, «he wanted to choose some in particular so that by publicly exercising in the Church in his name the priestly office on behalf of all men they might continue his mission of teacher, priest and shepherd.»

In this context, the secretary of the Vatican dicastery observed, «being a missionary means being sent by the Father to love.»

The priest, he continued, must also be a mediator, as Benedict XVI has said, defining the priest as the «mediator between God and men.»

If in our earthly life «there is no lack of suffering and trials,» «the believer, and especially the priest, must learn how to await the future glory with hope and perseverance.»

«Dear Mauro,» the archbishop said, turning to the friar, «you will continue the transformative work of Christ, transforming, that is, trials and suffering into a ‘a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.’ Through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect, because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which, by your hands in the name of the whole Church is offered on the altar in a bloodless way in the celebration of the holy mysteries.»

The 3rd «M» of the priesthood is that of martyrdom, Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai said, on the day when the Church celebrates the feast of the 120 Chinese martyrs beatified in various groups between 1746 and 1951 and canonized by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 1, 2000.

«The Gospel,» the archbishop said, returning to the theme of the sower, «speaks of the good soil for receiving the Word. The blood of martyrs fecundates the soil for the Word. Jesus Christ is the definitive and efficacious Word that has come from the Father and returned to him, perfectly realizing his will in the world. The Sower who carries the word become the Word himself.»

In this connection the archbishop exhorted the ordinand to be a «witness to Christ, so that with his word and example he might build up the Church and be the fragrance of Christ in his teaching, joy and support of the faithful.»

«Follow the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve,» he said.

The prelate then concluded citing a prayer of St. Thomas «because it is full of the spirit of St. Francis»: «My God, do not forget me when I forget you. Do not abandon me, O Lord, when I abandon you. Do not go far from me when I go far from you. Call me if I flee from you, draw me if I resist you, raise me up if I fall.»

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