05 August 2011

Tough Talk for Pastors

Robert Cardinal Sarah, Addressed Ordinands of the Community of St. Martin, June 25, 2011

Translation by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

. . . The priest is not a psychologist, nor a sociologist, nor an anthropologist, nor a politician. The priest should be exclusively a man of God, a saint or a man who aspires to sanctity, daily given to prayer, to thanksgiving and praise, and refusing to shine in the areas where other Christians have no need of him. He is destined to support and illuminate the souls of his brothers and sisters, to guide men to God and open to them the spiritual treasures of which they are terribly deprived today.

In effect, we live in a world where God is more and more absent and where we don’t know our values are and we don’t know our landmarks. We no longer have common moral reference points. We no longer know what is evil and what is good. There are a multitude of points of view. Today, we call white what we once called black, and vice versa. What is serious, and make no mistake about it, is the transformation of error into a rule of life. In this context, as priests, pastors and guides of the People of God, you should be continuously focused on being always loyal to the doctrine of Christ. It is necessary for you to constantly strive to acquire the sensitivity of conscience, the faithful respect for dogma and morality, which constitute the deposit of faith and the common patrimony of the Church of Christ.

If we have fear of proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, if we are ashamed of denouncing grave deviations in the area of morality, if we accommodate ourselves to this world of moral laxity and religious and ethical relativism, if we are afraid to energetically denounce the abominable laws regarding the new global ethos, regarding marriage, the family in all of its forms, abortion, laws in total opposition to the laws of nature and of God, and that the western nations and cultures are promoting and imposing thanks to the mass media and their economic power, then the prophetic words of Ezechiel will fall on us as a grave divine reproach. “Son of man, prophetize against the pastors of Israel to pastor themselves. Should not the pastors feed the flock? You have been fed with milk, you have dressed yourselves with wool. You have not strengthened the weak lambs, cared for those who were sick, healed those who were injured. You have not restored those who have strayed, searched for those who were lost. But you have governed them with violence and hardness.” (Ez. 34: 2-4)

These reproaches are serious, but more important is the offense that we have committed against God when we mistreat souls by depriving them of the true teaching of the doctrine of regarding God, regarding man, and the fundamental values of human existence, or we deprive them of the clear water of baptism that regenerates the soul, of the sanctifying oil of Confirmation which reinforces it, of the tribunal of pardon and of the eucharistic food that gives eternal life.

He who does not struggle to preach the Gospel, convert, protect, nourish, and lead the People of God down the road of truth and of life that is Jesus Christ himself, he who is silent in the face of the grave deviations of this world, enchanted by its technology and its scientific successes, exposes himself to one or another to the forms of slavery that can enchain your poor hearts: the slavery to an exclusively human vision of things, the slavery of ardently desiring temporal power or prestige, the slavery of vanity, the slavery of money, the servitude to sensuality.
And there is only way that can liberate us from these forms of slavery and bring us to fully assume our ministry of pastors and of shepherds, and that is the way of love.

Love, agapĂ©, is the key for understanding Christ. And it is for that reason we cannot put our energies in anything but a supreme love of Christ. We are no longer masters of our time nor of ourselves. And it is precisely because of this that Jesus does not ask Peter if he knows Him well, nor if he is content with the miraculous catch of which he was just gratified, to then confer upon him a personal and completely special mission. Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?” The first two times, Peter responds: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” But the third time, following the insistence of Jesus, Peter becomes more humble, smaller, profoundly hurt by the remembrance of his betrayal and his sin. He no longer uses the verb “love” alone, with all that which its meaning carries of purity, of clarity of strength, of truth, and of commitment. Remembering the painful experience of his wrechedness and his human weaknesses during the passion, he nuances his response in making it more humble and in attenuating it with a phrase that is like an expression of abandonment of self to the knowledge and the merciful love of God. Saint John recalls that “Peter was pained by being asked a third time “Do you love me” and he said to him “Lord, you know everything, you know well that I love you.” Jesus said to him: “Feed my lambs” (John 21:17). 

Witnessing to Christ is understood as nothing more than the love of Christ, than the love of the Crucified One. And the cross is the greatest school where we learn to love. When we do not love, we have terrible fear in the face of the powers of this world, and we seek to compromise. When, to the contrary, we love, there is no power that can close our mouths, and the lashes of the whip, the threats, the calumnies, or even stonings do nothing more than purify us of fear and fill our hearts “with joy for having being judged worthy of suffering outrages for the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41).

It seems to me that, if there is today a true crisis in the world, that crisis is that of the love of Christ and of the pope, the Vicar of Christ, among many, and even among certain Christians, priests, and bishops. They consider the pope and Christ as an idea or an institution or a power or a myth and not as they modestly and divinely are, to wit: a God that, in the man Jesus, has defeated death so that man can experience liberation, and a brother (the pope), who guides men liberated by the blood of Jesus and who are called, for their part, to lead others to the fullness of liberation that is nothing else than the plenitude of love.

It is only in loving that the world, which does not know, will understand the meaning of belief, and will discover love, that love which is not a vague sentiment nor an egotistical quest for pleasure, but rather a friendly face, a brother who has died for each one of us, so that the world will discover love. This, then, will be the Passover, forever and for all, that Passover that gives us to celebrate each day for the glory of God, the sanctification and the salvation of the world. I entrust you to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Amen.

French original from the Community of St. Martin website

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