Grace to you!
A man came to a priest for spiritual guidance. He reminded the priest that in terms of spiritual life, he trusts the priest will give him an honest and truthful assessment of his spiritual journey and wouldn’t hesitate to be candid.
The priest thought about the trust of this man throughout the greater part of their conversation. He wondered to what extent people trust a leader of a church for their spiritual life. Isn’t it why the wounds of scandals by church leaders are deep and grave?
Thoughts about the man’s trust made the priest take the task seriously, as every leader should.
Many look up to the priest or the minster of the church for spiritual guidance. When they are in doubt, they want a word that will inspire and guide them. More often than not, when they ask a priest to clarify certain issues regarding the faith, it’s because they feel something isn’t right. The sense of faith of God’s people, which is an ongoing gift of discernment granted by the Holy Spirit, is well and alive, from generation to generation. One doesn’t need be a theologian before one could perceive what is right or wrong.
Take for instance, a person who comes to a priest and asks if masturbation is sinful. The person is already tacitly convinced about the sin of masturbation, but needed an affirmation. The priest would be misleading the person if he made light of what the person already senses is sinful.
From time to time, we hear heart-breaking stories of priests or pastors who mislead the people. It’s scandalous to do so. I pray God to help us not to mislead God’s people.
As I read the Letter to the Hebrews (13:17-18), I am more drawn to the aspect of the role of the Christian leader. “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17).
While the writer of the letter was admonishing the believers to make the works of ministers easier, by their docility of faith to the truth and their guidance, he was indirectly speaking to the scary and unworthy responsibility of leaders in being accountable for the spiritual growth of the flock entrusted to them.
To watch over the soul of any is a scary task. Could it be one of the reasons a holy man like Saint Bernard refused to be a priest? It was said he insisted he was unworthy to offer the sacraments, especially Mass and Confession. Watching over souls sounds to me like more humbling and scarier than any adventure.
It implies we should approach this with utter respect and reverence. As stewards, unworthy of it, may we always reflect on the sacred duty entrusted to us.
A soul, a heart, a person is more valuable than anything. May cheap popularity not be a tradeoff for proper guidance of souls.
I am reminded as a priest that my calling and responsibility is to lead people to Christ, not away from him. Lead people to the truth, not away from the truth. Lead people to grace, not make them abhor grace. Lead people to divine mercy and divine love.
May God give ordained ministers the grace to approach our responsibilities with the reverence due to it. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
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.