Pope Francis' homily on Saturday morning offered a strong exhortation to priests to remain faithful to their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Priests must ask themselves, “what is the place of Jesus Christ in my priestly life? A living relationship between disciple and master, between brother and brother, between a poor man and God, or is it a little artificial not coming from the heart?” the Pope said on Jan. 11.
Pope Francis acknowledged, “we priests have many limitations: we are sinners, everyone.”
“But if we go to Jesus Christ, if we search for the Lord in prayer – the prayer of intercession, the prayer of adoration – we will be good priests, even though we are sinners,” he preached in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse where he was joined by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and a group of priests from the Archdiocese of Genova.
Playing on the Italian words for “anointing” and “oily” or “smarmy,” Pope Francis said, “we are anointed by the Spirit and when a priest is far away from Jesus Christ he can lose this anointing. In his life, no: essentially he has it but he loses it. And instead of being anointed he ends up becoming oily.”
“How much damage smarmy priests do in the Church!” the Pope lamented.
Priests have “a relationship of anointing for the people” but without a living relationship with Jesus Christ, a priest finds himself caught up in “artificial things, in vanity, in an attitude in an affected language.” Moreover, a man in holy orders may find himself compensating for his lack of faith with other “worldly behaviors,” or becoming a “shrewd businessman.”
“But the priest that adores Jesus Christ, the priest that speaks with Jesus Christ, the priest that seeks Jesus Christ and who allows himself to be sought by Jesus Christ: this is the center of our life. If it is not this, we lose everything. And what will we give to the people?” he questioned.
Contrasting the two lifestyles, he went on, “it is good to find priests who have given their lives as priests, truly, of whom the people say: ‘Yes, he’s difficult, he’s this or that... But he is a priest!’ And people know! On the other hand, when people see priest idolaters, so to speak, priests who instead of having Jesus have little idols...worshippers of the god Narcissus people say, ‘poor guy!’”
It is only “the relationship with Jesus Christ saves us from worldliness and idolatry that makes us smarmy, preserves us in the anointing (we have received),” he stressed.
Pope Francis concluded, “today, this is my hope for you who have been kind enough to come here to concelebrate with me: Even if you lose everything in life, don’t lose this relationship with Jesus Christ! This is your victory. Go forward with this!”