ROME — The life of every Christian, and especially of every bishop, involves “a call, a response and a mission,” Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, Montana, told his brother bishops from the Northwest.
In every Christian life — “with all its twists and turns, ups and downs, starts and stops” — each person experiences a call to make their baptismal commitment deeper, to respond to that call and to accept a mission from the Lord, the bishop said Feb. 6 during Mass at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.
Warfel was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass with bishops of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska as they neared the end of their ad limina visits to pray at the tombs of the apostles, to meet Pope Francis and to visit the offices of the Roman Curia.
The first Scripture reading at the Mass recounted the death of King David while the Gospel, from Mark, told of Jesus sending the apostles out on mission. Both stories, Warfel said, illustrate the call of sometimes weak human beings, their response and their mission.
With priestly ordination, the bishop said, “we reached what we thought was the pinnacle of our call. But then one day we received a phone call from a guy called the nuncio. Within a couple of months, we became successors of the apostles and began to minister as bishops.”
The normal first response to the phone call, he said, “is ‘Gee, I’m not really worthy of this.’ And we weren’t,” but “the virtue of humility is essential for a life in Christ and our ministry.”
“I consistently think it strange how God chooses so frail and fickle individuals to do his bidding,” the bishop said. “But somewhere in God’s plan, that’s what he wants to do.”
Recognizing human weakness, he said, the ministry of a bishop “must be safeguarded by prayer and discipline as well as a good deal of humility.”
“Our ministry really isn’t about us at all, it’s about Christ. Our mission is to proclaim Christ by word and deed,” he said, ending his homily with the prayer that Jesus would continue to use the bishops for his mission of salvation and that they would continue to respond to that call with generosity.
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