Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, reminded members of the clergy that priesthood is not measured by external pastoral activities or personal achievements.
The bishop said that the “prolonged inactivity” during the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic made him think about his priesthood.
“When I can no longer do my ministries, when I am grounded in my convent, and for a long indefinite time, is my priesthood somehow diminished?”
Bishop Pabillo said priests should not “identify the priesthood to output and activities,” which is almost impossible to do because of the strict quarantine protocols.
He said “priesthood is not ours” and reminded the faithful that they too share the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
“At that time he was alone, abandoned by his companions. He was useless; he could hardly even move. Yet, he was most priest at that time,” said the prelate.
Below is Bishop Pabillo’s reflection:
How can we be Good Shepherds during the Quarantine Period?
This is a reflection for priests. Many times the people, and we ourselves, measure our priesthood according to our activities. A priest is good if he does a lot of good – organizing people, leading meetings, giving talks, celebrating the sacraments, teaching, giving aid to the needy. Suddenly during the quarantine period, we are cut off from these activities. It is more than a month now that we do not exercise the usual ministries that we do. Are we still priests? How can we be shepherds when we do not have the flock around us?
This prolonged inactivity has forced me to think about my priesthood. In what does my priesthood consist? Am I a priest, or more of a priest, because of the ministries that I do? When I can no longer do my ministries, when I am grounded in my convent, and for a long indefinite time, is my priesthood somehow diminished?
This is a problem when we identify the priesthood to output and activities. But the priesthood is not a career, nor a profession, much less a position or a function. So we do not measure the success of our priesthood with the position we have achieved, with the remuneration that we get, with the degrees that we accumulate, or with the fans that we attract. We lose all of these during the lockdown. In what then does my priesthood consist?
We have always been reminded that the priesthood is not ours. It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We share in his priesthood; we exercise his priesthood. Jesus is our High Priest, and his priesthood is forever because he offered that one perfect sacrifice to God once and for all to reconcile us to God. Jesus’ priesthood was manifest when he was hanging on the cross. At that time he was alone, abandoned by his companions. He was useless; he could hardly even move. Yet, he was most priest at that time.
If this is so, we do not lose our priesthood because we can no longer do good, and no longer travel and be with our people and minister to them. We live our priesthood by configuring ourselves to Christ Crucified in his uselessness and suffering. How do we do this? By joining our inconveniences and even sufferings to that of Jesus. Let us have the sentiments of St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24)
We do this especially when we offer the mass. So even if there are no mass intentions, even if there are no people, even if there are no cameras, we celebrate the mass because here we exercise our priesthood by offering our pains, anxieties and difficulties, and those of our people, together with the offering of Jesus Christ.
But we exercise the priesthood not only during the mass but also when we pray. Here we unite ourselves with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Spend time in prayer, and we have time during the lockdown. We can do now an important part of our priesthood – to be intercessors for our people. However, let us note what St. John Paul II wrote: “Spending time in intimate conversation with the Good Shepherd in the Blessed Sacrament is a pastoral priority far superior to any other.” During this quarantine period, we have this golden opportunity to spend time with our Good Shepherd in the Blessed Sacrament, and we are not deprived of the Blessed Sacrament, unlike most of our people. Here in front of Jesus we bring before God the fears and anxieties of many and intercede with him for our people – and they have so many needs at this time.
We do not lose our priesthood nor diminish it because we cannot do external pastoral activities. The pastoral work that we can do, and is very effective though hidden, is to offer the sacrifice of the mass and to pray for our people, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Here we are united in a special way to Jesus, the chief shepherd, and guardian of our souls.