Pope Francis ordained ten men to the sacred priesthood on Sunday morning, the Fourth Sunday of Easter and Good Shepherd Sunday (Vocations Sunday) after the Gospel reading of the day, which is also celebrated as the day of prayer for vocations.
The Holy Father delivered the standard, prepared “template” homily found in the Roman Ritual for priestly ordinations, with three significant extemporaneous deviations from the text.
The first, was a reminder that the priesthood is not a “career” in the usual sense, and ought not be lived as a path to advancement within the Church. “These men have been elected by the Lord Jesus not to make their own way, but to do this [priestly] service.”
Pope Francis also broke with the prepared text to say, “Do not give homilies that are too intellectual or elaborate,” he said. “Be simple, as Our Lord spoke, who reached hearts.”
Pope Francis went on to say, “A presbyter who has perhaps studied much theology and has achieved one or two or three advanced degrees, but has not learned to carry the Cross of Christ, is useless: he will be a good academic, a good professor, but not a priest.”
The Holy Father also broke from the prepared text to say, “Please, I ask you in the name of Christ and of the Church to be merciful, always: do not saddle the faithful with burdens they cannot carry (nor ought you so burden yourselves). Jesus reproved the doctors of the law for this, and called them hypocrites.”
A concrete work of mercy to which Pope Francis called the ordinands was that of visiting the sick. “One of the tasks,” he said, “perhaps a nuisance, even painful – is to go to visit the sick. Do it, all of you. Yes, it is well that the lay faithful should do it, and deacons, but do not forget to touch the flesh of the suffering Christ in the sick: this sanctifies you, it brings you closer to Christ.”
The Holy Father concluded his homily with an appeal to joy.
“Be joyful, never sad,” he said. “With the joy of Christ’s service, even in the midst of suffering, misunderstanding, even one’s own sins. Have the example of the Good Shepherd ever before your eyes,” the Pope continued, “He did not come to be served, but to serve.”
“Please,” Pope Francis said at the last, “do not be ‘lords’, do not be ‘State Clerics’, but shepherds, pastors of the People of God.”