Pope Francis has outlined three Apostolic attitudes of St. Paul, encouraging all ‘shepherds’ to keep them in mind during their ministry.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis gave this lesson during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on today’s first reading, where St Paul addressed the church leaders in Ephesus.
Warning “Shepherds are not the centre of the Church,” the Pope highlighted that ‘true shepherds’ know how to step down from their church, because he knows that he is not at the center of history, but is a free man who has served without compromises and without taking control of his flock. That was Pope Francis’ message during his homily at Mass celebrated on Tuesday in the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence.
“A shepherd must be ready to step down completely from his church, rather than leave in a partial manner” said the Pope.
This reading, the Jesuit Pope observed, could easily be called “A bishop’s leave taking” since Paul has left the Church of Ephesus in order to go to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit called him to go.
“All shepherds have to step down. There comes a moment where the Lord says ‘go to another place, come here, go there, come to me.’ And it’s one of the steps that a shepherd must take; be prepared to step down in the correct way, not still hanging on to his position.”
When St. Paul held a council with all the priests of Ephesus, Francis recalled, he demonstrated three “apostolic attitudes.”
‘Never turning back,’ Francis said is the first attitude, noting that turning back marks the worst of all sins.
Never turning back, Francis noted, requires courage, but brings peace to the shepherd, “when he remembers that he is not a shepherd who has led the church through compromising.”
Obedience to the Spirit, he noted, is the second attitude, even when one doesn’t know what will happen. “A shepherd must know that he is on a journey. The Pope said that Paul was a shepherd who serves his sheep.”
“Whilst guiding the Church he had an uncompromising attitude, at that moment it was the Spirit who asked him to go on his journey, without knowing what would happen to him. And he went because he had nothing of his own, he had not wrongly taken control of his sheep. He had served them. Paul said ‘Now God wants me to leave. I leave without knowing what will happen to me. I know only this – the Spirit had told him this – that the Holy Spirit had testified to me that trials and tribulations are awaiting me from city to city.’
“This was what he (St Paul) knew. That I am not retiring. I am going away to serve other churches. The heart is always open to the voice of God, I am leaving this place, I will see what the Lord is asking of me. This is a shepherd without compromises who is now a shepherd on a journey.”
Francis noted that the third attitude is: “I do not consider my own life to be precious in any way. I am not the center of history. Whether it’s large history or small history, I am not the center, I am a servant.”
“With this most beautiful example, let us pray for our shepherds, for our parish priests, our bishops, the Pope, that their lives will be lives lived without compromise, lives on a journey and lives where they do not believe that they are the center of history and have learned how to step down.
Pope Francis concluded, saying, “Let us pray for our shepherds.”