“The Lord ‘gets involved’ with us, becomes personally responsible for removing every stain, all that grimy, worldly smog which clings to us from the journey we make in his name.”
Pope Francis stressed this during his homily at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, calling on priests gathered to realize God never feels it is too late to wash away priests’ ‘weariness’ and that, “People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds!”
The Pontiff identified himself as a fellow priest, asking his fellow clergy to ponder several specific questions and to contemplate three types of weariness ‘we face.’
“If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is demanding; it can tire us,” he said, noting this occurs from “the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom.”
“The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience?”
While saying such exhaustion is like incense which silently rises up to heaven and which goes straight to the heart of the Father, he also said how it reaches our Mother. Mary, he said, knows and is concerned when her children are tired, and says: “Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards.”
Yet Francis however warned against falling into the temptation that priests may have to rest however they please when feeling weighted down by pastoral work, since doing so forgets that rest is a gift God gave them in the first place.
“Whenever a priest feels dead tired, yet is able to bow down in adoration and say: ‘Enough for today Lord,’ and entrusts himself to the Father, he knows that he will not fall but be renewed,” Francis said.
Never forget, he reminded the priests, that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in “how we rest” and “look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness.”
“How difficult it is to learn how to rest!” he said, noting that priests getting better at doing this speaks volumes about their level of trust and their ability to realize that that they too are sheep.
The Jesuit Pontiff then said a few questions can help priests in this regard, including: “Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly “rest in times of weariness” for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: ‘I know him in whom I have placed my trust’?”
The tasks of which Jesus speaks—including rejoicing with couples who marry, laughing with children brought to baptismal font, or suffering with the sick–, the Holy Father said, call for the ability to show compassion and “for their hearts to be ‘moved’ and fully engaged in carrying them out.”
Yet, Francis admitted, “All these emotions can exhaust the heart of a pastor.”
“For the Lord, and for us,” he said, “this can be exhausting – so the Gospel tells us – yet it is a good weariness, a fruitful and joyful exhaustion. The Lord never tired of being with people. On the contrary, he seemed renewed by their presence.”
“People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds!”
“The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sun glasses,” he said, noting, “It has nothing to do with those who wear expensive cologne and who look at others from afar and from above.”
While saying this type is called the ‘weariness of the crowds,’ Francis reflected next on “the weariness of enemies” and “finally – lest you be wearied by this homily itself! – there is also ‘weariness of ourselves.’”
Calling the third type perhaps the most dangerous type because it is self-referential, he said, “It is dissatisfaction with oneself,” and is associated with “wanting yet not wanting.”
It involves “having given up everything but continuing to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt, toying with the illusion of being something different.”
“I like to call this kind of weariness ‘flirting with spiritual worldliness,'” he said.
Later in the homily, the Pope turned to what he called the most profound and mysterious image of how the Lord deals with pastoral tiredness: the washing of the feet.
“From our feet,” Francis went on to say, “we can tell how the rest of our body is doing.”
The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, the Pontiff underscored, are signs of how we have followed him, “of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters.”
“The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following him.
“This is something holy.”
“Do not let your feet remain dirty, he urged. “Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labours.”
Priests’ discipleship itself, he said, is cleansed by Jesus, with the aim that the priests can rightly feel “joyful, fulfilled, free of fear and guilt, and impelled to go out even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery.”
“Let us learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!” the 78-year-old Pontiff rejoiced.
Also during the Mass the oils for the year were blessed which will be used for Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Among those present at the Mass were many members of the Roman Curia, diocesan priests, and other faithful.
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