Grace to you!
Many look up to church leaders 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, for instance, to clarify certain issues regarding the faith, it’s because they feel something isn’t right. Or rather, they are in a situation of moral and/or ethical dilemma and want to make the right choice. 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 in their relationship with God.
Take for instance, a person who comes to a priest and asks if masturbation is sinful. The person is probably already tacitly convinced about the sin of masturbation but needed an affirmation. Or it could be the person’s well-formed conscience is indicating such an action isn’t in line with Godly life. 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 religious leaders 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 leaders’ guidance, he was indirectly speaking to the scary and unworthy responsibility of religious leaders in being accountable for the spiritual growth of the flock entrusted to them.
To watch over the soul of any person 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
[Saturday Week 5 Ordinary Time: Heb 13:15-17, 20-21; Mk 6:30-34]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.