“It is Jesus who gives meaning to the life of the priest. Without Him, the priesthood is not understood, it makes no sense,” Cardinal Francis Arinze said this week as he led the members of the Roman Curia and Pope Benedict in their annual spiritual exercises at the Vatican.
The cardinal recalled that when Jesus is not present in the life of the priest, “I would say his vocation becomes a farce. In whose name does he celebrate, preach or act?”
“The priest is Christ’s ambassador. Therefore if all Christians need to follow Jesus, much more so does the priest. His testimony is before the eyes of all, especially before those who do not believe,” he reminded the retreatants.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Arinze explained why he chose the theme, “The priest meets Jesus and follows Him,” for the Lenten reflections. “I thought that in the encounter and following of Jesus we can see the synthesis of all of Christianity. On the one hand, there is Jesus who calls us. On the other, we find ourselves with our response: we encounter Him, we follow Him and this becomes a way of life.”
“This is what happened with the first apostles: Jesus sees them and He tells them to follow Him. This following includes listening, His teaching, the miracles and prayer. We can say the Apostles spent three years in Major Seminary and the rector was the Son of God.”
Speaking later about what it means to him to be able to lead the Lenten reflections for Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Arinze said, “I wasn’t expecting it, and therefore it is a task I assume very seriously. I said to myself: the Pope could find a good theologian, how did he pick me? But later I thought, ‘he’s the one who can, so this is the will of God. Why should I not have the simplicity to share the little that I have?’ And with this spirit I welcomed the invitation.”