In his daily Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the significance of the special anointing given to priests and bishops, emphasizing that it marks their role of service to the Church, which we should be grateful for.
“Today, thinking about this anointing of David, it will do us good to think of our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests, and pray for them. We are here today thanks to them,” the Pope stated in his Jan. 27 homily.
Addressing those present for his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, Pope Francis began his homily by drawing attention to the day’ first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, in which the tribes of Israel anoint David as their king.
“Without this anointing, David would have been only the head” of a “company” or a “political society, which was the Kingdom of Israel,” observed the pontiff, explaining that David would have been a mere “political organizer.”
However, “after the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord” descends upon David and remains with him, the Pope stated recalled, adding that “This is precisely the difference anointing makes.”
Explaining that the one who is anointed is chosen by the Lord, Pope Francis expressed that it is also the same with bishops and priests, and that “the bishops are elected not only to conduct an organization, which is called the particular Church…they are anointed.”
“They have the anointing and the Spirit of the Lord is with them,” he noted, highlighting that “all the bishops are sinners, every one;” but “still, we are anointed.”
“We all want to be more holy every day, more faithful to this anointing,” the Pope continued, adding that “the person of the bishop is the thing that (constitutes) a Church (as such), in the name of Jesus Christ – because he is anointed, not because he was voted by the majority.”
“It is in this anointing that a particular Church has its strength. Because they take part (in the bishop’s mission of service) priests are anointed, as well,” the Pope explained.
Pope Francis observed that anointing brings bishops and priests closer to the Lord, and gives them the strength “to carry (their) people forward, to help (their) people, to live in the service of (their) people.”
It also gives them the joy of feeling “chosen by the Lord, watched by the Lord, with that love with which the Lord looks upon all of us,” said the Pope, and therefore “when we think of bishops and priests, we must think of them in this way: (as) anointed ones.”
“On the contrary,” he said, “it is impossible to understand – not only – it is impossible to explain how the Church could continue under merely human strength,” but “this diocese goes forward because it has a holy people…and also an anointed one who leads, who helps it to grow.”
Looking to history, the Pope explained that we only know “a small part” of “how many holy bishops, how many priests, how many holy priests have given their lives in the service of the diocese, the parish.”
“How many people have received the power of faith, the power of love, hope (itself) from these anonymous pastors?” he asked, emphasizing that “We do not know: there are so many.”
“The parish priests of the country or the city, who, with their anointing have given strength the people, who have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments: (in a word), holiness.”
Pope Francis then drew attention to those who are often critical of priests, and who say things such as “‘But, Father, I have read in a newspaper that a bishop has done such a thing, or a priest who has done this thing.’”
“Oh yes, I read it, too,” he explained, but “tell me, though: do the papers carry news of what great charity so many priests, so many priests in so many parishes of the city and the countryside, perform? Of the great work they do in carrying their people forward? No?”
“This is not news,” observed the Pope, noting that “it is the same as always: a single falling tree makes more noise than a forest that grows.”
However, the pontiff concluded by encouraging those present to think “about this anointing,” and to pray and give thanks for “our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests.”