Every Holy Tuesday we priests come to the Cathedral to renew our priestly promises through a series of questions.
In one question, we are asked if we will sacrifice our own pleasure and ambition in order to become more like Christ as we carry out the responsibilities of the priesthood. Take note that the word “sacrifice” is used, and thus the question seems to speak to the manner in which priests are asked to serve: not promoting ourselves or our own ambition, but laying that aside—sacrificing our ambition –in order to promote only Christ.
In another question, the topic moves on to the ministry we perform: the ministry of the sacraments, the ministry of teaching, and the ministry of shepherd.
About the Ministry of the Sacraments: Will we celebrate faithfully the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments? It is interesting to note that the liturgy asks if we will be “faithful ministers” of the sacred mysteries, administering faithfully the sacred mysteries that have been handed to us.
About the Ministry of Teaching: With regards to what we teach, will we deliver the truth to God’s people without regard for our own popularity? It is interesting to note the way the liturgy words this: Will you teach “without thinking of your own profit” what will truly be for the salvation and well-being of the people?
Now, About the Ministry of Shepherd: As shepherds of Christ’s flock, priests are to use as their reference point – Jesus Christ, who sacrificed personal pleasure, personal ambition, and ultimately sacrificed Himself, in order to lead us back to God. It is a life where everything is placed at the service of Christ. So the question is: Are we priests willing to sacrifice all, in order to shepherd Christ’s people as Christ did? Christ the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11) He surrendered everything in order to lead the sheep to the safe pastures of eternal life.
For me, one powerful sign that the priests is indeed configured to Christ the High Priest and Good Shepherd, is when the priest is surrounded by his flock and they respond to him because they know that Christ and His ministry are present. The priest stands in the midst of his flock, and they listen to him only if they hear the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd in the priest’s speech. Whether the priest is at Mass with Christ’s flock gathered before him, or greeting people after Mass surrounded by Christ’s people, or celebrating sacraments, or teaching, he gathers Christ’s people around him like the shepherd gathering his sheep, and he feeds them on the Word of Life and the sacraments, which communicate Our Lord’s sanctifying grace to them. How many graces pass through the priest’s hands as he ministers to God’s people? How marvelous is that anointing we priests received at our ordination, and in which we remain steadfast everyday through our prayer!