ROME — Priests are called to love, care for others and prepare for the cross, Pope Francis said.
Celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae May 18, Pope Francis focused his homily on the day’s reading from St. John’s Gospel (21:15-19). Jesus asks Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me,” and each time that Simon Peter replies he does, Jesus tells him to feed and tend his sheep. He then forewarns his disciple that following him would lead to going “where you do not want to go.”
This Gospel passage, the pope said, is “the road map of a pastor, the compass” that must guide his ministry and life journey: “Love me, care (for others) and prepare yourself.”
Love is the essential rule or “grammar” for being “true disciples of the son of God,” he said.
Jesus is telling Peter, “Love me more than the others, love me as you can, but love me. This is what the Lord asks us priests and all of us, too: ‘Love me.’ The first passage in dialogue with the Lord is love,” Francis said.
Tending to and “taking care of” are also essential to the “true identity” of a bishop and priest because they are called to be shepherds, he said.
And, in addition, all those who embrace the Lord are destined to carry the cross, to leave what they have behind, he said.
“Prepare yourself for ordeals, prepare yourself to leave everything so that another may come and do something different. Prepare yourself for this annihilation in life. They will lead you along the path of humiliation, perhaps along the path of martyrdom” or the same people who had once showered them with praise will bad-mouth them, he said.
Get ready for the cross, he said, “when they lead you where you do not want to go.”
The pope ended his homily by warning against the temptation of being nosy and “sticking one’s nose in other people’s lives.”
He also said, “don’t waste time” in cliques or coteries “climbing” the way up in the Church. “Love, feed and prepare and don’t fall into temptation.”