Grace to you!
One Saturday evening, a priest (who wasn’t in cassock or Roman collar; hence, unnoticed) overheard a conversation between two people over a diner table in a restaurant. They had just come from Mass and were musing how the celebration went—the homily, and the decorum of the priest during Mass. They were comparing the priest’s message and comportment with their pastor’s.
In their opinion, the priest didn't show signs of reverence during the Mass. There was no passion in his voice as he delivered the homily which, according to them, had no theological and pastoral substance. All they remembered were tips about the priest’s travel galore, and the names of the best restaurants in Spain. One remarked, “The priest isn’t as passionate about the faith as their pastor is.”
How people often assess priests after Mass.
Passion. This word, though easily misunderstood and misapplied, is needed in the context of the ministry. The passion for souls is what we know in our traditional Catholic spirituality as apostolic fervor or pastoral fervor as it relates to pastoral ministry in general. It is that fervor to teach the truth of the gospel without fear or favor, knowing that one of the best ways to help people out of moral impoverishment is to educate them in the ways of the Lord. Knowledge is power. The knowledge of God is like spiritual dynamite shattering the walls of evil and deceitful attachments.
Pastoral fervor is equally the passion to lead in the Church following the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd. It is being primarily driven by the desire to serve and not to be served; and being concerned with the welfare of God’s people.
Paul is one of the apostles and disciples whose apostolic fervor that God's people may know the truth that sets free is obvious. In 2 Corinthians 11:1-11, we hear him concerned that heresy could be introduced in the Corinthian Church. As a passionate pastor, he knew the harm false teaching could cause in the Church. Hence, he warns Christians, reminding them not to believe any other gospel but the saving truth of Christ.
So that financial concerns wouldn't deter him from the Christocentric (Christ-centered) focus of his teaching, Paul didn't burden the believers with his domestics needs. He was an apostle with both apostolic fervor and right judgment. If material concerns detracted from the gospel, it wasn’t worth fighting for.
While, as we reflected yesterday, the temporal needs of the church must be met, may it not be a distraction from the care for souls. After all is said and done, what Jesus would ask of us on the last day isn't how we were materially fed or how good our financial balance sheet was. These are important only as means to the ultimate mission—care for souls and salvation.
Praying for true apostolic fervor. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 11: 2 Cor 11:1-11; Mtt 6:7-15]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.