As the Lord’s trustees, priests never live for themselves, nor do they make any distance from the needs of the people … When it is difficult for you to carry on your shoulders the people entrusted to you by the Lord, do not complain so much about what you do or what frustrates you; only those who do not understand the dynamics of missionary sending complain, they are those who think that everything depends exclusively on them. Sometimes, they even forget who sends them. God never sends you alone; remember the seventy elders who accompanied Moses.
– Bishop Amadeo
Dear Brothers Francisco Javier, Antonio, and Jesús:
We have just heard some texts from the Word of God, which I have chosen myself. This is one of the great moments of a bishop’s life, ordaining priests for the diocesan Church at the service of the holy people of God living in this blessed land of Jaén; and because I am the one who has received the grace to ordain you, it has been up to me to choose what I believe you need to hear from the Word of the Lord.
My intention in selecting them has been, above all, to let the texts speak for themselves. I prefer that they be the ones that will synthesize all that the Lord wants to tell you, and I with Him, on the day of your priestly ordination. Many may think that this is an emotional, festive, family, ecclesial and even social event as well as also an end of a stage; However, let it be clear that what you are experiencing is a sacramental act of sending. The Bishop who, as pastor, has accompanied you through your formators and teachers, wants to tell you with heart and in the Spirit, that you understand what the Lord desires from you in the future that you are beginning to count today and which we want to be lasting and fruitful.
To choose from, there were more consoling and probably easier texts to listen to. However, I have chosen those that have been proclaimed so that you will never forget that your life will be of service to a people, which you will have to know and with which you will have to identify. Whatever mission you are going to accomplish, do not complain to the Lord like Moses; He already has you feeling weak, and that is why he already foresees the solutions you need to carry out the mission he entrusts to you.
As the Lord’s trustees, priests never live for themselves, nor do they make any distance from the needs of the people. On the contrary, you will have to “take them in arms like a nurse to their creature.” That, you must do so from the first day, from the first hour, without ever saving yourself the selfless and generous service to which you are called. You cannot be a priest without a passion for the people, as Pope Francis very well recalls. You are not priests because the people choose you, but you are because the Lord Jesus has chosen you and called you to serve his people and take them to that precious destiny, which as you know is to walk and live in Christ, in whom the father’s love is found. You have been chosen to evangelize. Our priestly existence is that we are witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ carrying on the people, even if sometimes you feel that you lack the strength.
When it is difficult for you to carry on your shoulders the people entrusted to you by the Lord, do not complain so much about what you do or what frustrates you; only those who do not understand the dynamics of missionary sending complain, they are those who think that everything depends exclusively on them. Sometimes, they even forget who sends them. God never sends you alone; remember the seventy elders who accompanied Moses. “I will set aside a part of the spirit that you possess and pass it on to them, that they may divide with you the burden of the people and not have to take it on your own.” God always associates others with our mission.
Jesus Christ says, “Go,” and that is plural. The apostles and disciples, and women and children, all who would believe in Him, were included in His sending. To you three I say to you, also in the plural, and places you in a theological, spiritual, and human company, which you will have to value every day. He sends you in the Church, in your diocese, He sends you with your Bishop and in your presbytery; He sends you in synodal communion with a holy people. With all, you will share the burden entrusted to you in this beloved land of Andalusia, which is our diocese of the Holy Kingdom of Jaén. Fear not in the day-to-day life of your ministry, the Lord today gives you the part of his Spirit that belongs to you and, with all who live in the Spirit, share the “blessed burden” of loving and serving these people.
Your life from today is very valuable to God, He has placed in your heart the love that He has for His people. A love that you will have to communicate, beginning by putting a face and name to all those, all without exception, to those you will be sent without making distinctions, especially among the easy-going or the difficult. The Good Shepherd never makes categories in his heart. That is why I say to you, in Paul’s words to the priests of the Church of Ephesus: “Beware of yourself and the flock which the Holy Spirit has entrusted you to keep, as pastors of the Church of God, which he acquired with his own blood.”
The treasure of your priestly life must be very well taken care of. Today’s task of keeping the flock will depend on your charity and pastoral quality, as we have so often told you; a comprehensive quality that is only cultivated in identification and follow-up with Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. With Him you will learn every day to be experts in humanity, to care and guard humanity; In Him you will find the human and divine wisdom with which you will have to give light and hope to the people you care for. The priesthood is cultivated by caring for the flock, so the smell of sheep is the best fertilizer of your priestly spirituality.
Paul’s scene, speaking as a father and pastor to the priests of Ephesus, is happening between you and me this morning. I have the same concern for you as the Apostle for those priests. I know I’m sending you to a difficult field in difficult times; I know that there are many dangers, which come to us from outside, but there are also serious and deceptive ones within the same flock of the Lord in which we share our discipleship. That is why I say to you: be alert and faithful to what you have learned in this long time when the Church has prepared you to be apostles of Jesus Christ.
So that the love that has brought you to the altar this morning, this precious first love, which I am sure you feel today, may also be preserved as Paul: live with the certainty that you are in the hands of God and cultivate all that makes you feel caressed by the Lord: the Eucharistic celebration will be every day for you the hands of God who, in the Body of Christ, charge you. Cultivate what keeps you in divine tenderness, from which you will have to live to offer it to all: the liturgy of hours, prayer, the sacrament of penance, spiritual accompaniment, devotion to Mary… In short, do not fail to seek the hands of God in your life, especially when the pain, difficulties, doubts, temptations, which will never be lacking come. Finally, my dear, “I leave you in the hands of God and his word of grace, which has the power to build you and give you part in the inheritance of the saints.”
“This is our faith: that he who began in you this good work will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). Good work has its design in the Gospel, so today I recommend you, especially the one we have heard; this text which I have chosen to be a permanent alert in your priestly heart. The good work that opens today in you is your life in Christ, Good Shepherd.
It is his image that you must look at each day. It is an image to make a life of in the ministry. It is an image that necessarily must identify you. If this is Christ’s, so will yours. In this image, Jesus appears with a heart that carries his tired feet to roam the cities and villages, which is not static, that does not look at himself, who seeks all, who cares and cares for all; who has a preferential option for the weak, disinherited, discarded. “Jesus walked through all the cities and villages, teaching in his synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all diseases and all ailments.”
In this image, Jesus is Gospel, Goodnews of God’s love: with his words and healing gestures he proclaims the Kingdom and builds it with the patience and divine pedagogy he always has with the human condition: sowing much, harvesting only the fruit of the good earth. In this image the Lord shows his deepest feelings, the most essential features of his heart: when he saw the people, he felt sorry for them, because they were exhausted and abandoned, “like sheep without a shepherd.”
In this image Jesus entrusts us, especially to priests, a mission that we must never forget: that our lives may be vocationally contagious, so that many children and young people may fall in love with Christ, follow him and discover, like you, the call to the priesthood or any other choice of service. Our life in Christ will also be a call to discover missionary disciples, workers in the field of implanting the Gospel.
And never forget that the image of Jesus is reflected, in a special way, in the heart of his Mother, a Priestly Mother, the Blessed Virgin. Behold that heart and that face of Mary, reflect it in yours, and I assure you that fidelity will settle in your life. Amen.
+ Amadeo Rodríguez Magro
Bishop of Jaén
©Translated and Edited by Valentine Umoh
Photo credit: @facebook.com/diocesisdejaén