‘Be good shepherds, not hired workers,’ Tagle tells priests

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Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle during opening of the Year of Faith in Manila last year.

MANILA, Dec. 8, 2013—Ending the celebration of the Year of Faith with the ordination of new priests, the top churchman of the Manila Archdiocese on Saturday called on the ordained ministers of the church to remain true to their priestly vocation by “fixing their gaze” to the Divine and shunning the allure of power and riches.  

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle lamented over the worsening commercialization of the world, saying that priests must not be concerned on gaining wealth and must instead be focused on bringing Christ closer to the Catholic faithful. 

“Learn from Jesus how to be a shepherd rather than a hired person. Jesus laments the false shepherds—those who appear like shepherds, but in their minds and in their hearts they do not care about the sheep because they only care for their pay,” Tagle said in his homily during the Year of Faith closing celebration of the Manila Archdiocese held at the San Fernando de Dilao Parish. 

“You, priests, are not ordained to become hired workers. Our country is suffering because there are already too many hired people whom you could not trust to become shepherds,” he added. 

Tagle urged them to become true shepherds by “fixing their gaze on Jesus,” noting that it is only through learning from Him that the allure of wealth and riches can be ignored. 

“Learn from Him the unity that He had with the Father for it is your unity with the Father that will lead you to unity with the flock,” he said. 

“It is not a unity born out of sociological or ideological reason. The unity of the shepherd with the flock is born out of the spirituality in communion with the Father and only that school of communion with the Father prepares us adequately to be in communion with the flock,” he added. 

“He united himself in us…but will we know him the way He knows us?…Will we accept this offering and will we in turn offer ourselves to Him who has first loved us? Jesus now deserves our commitment, our gaze. He is the shepherd,” Tagle noted. 

In the service of the church 

Tagle reminded church ministers that their ordination to the priesthood is meant to render service to the church and not to enrich themselves and pursue their personal interests. 

“Are we self-focused? Or are we focused on the community, the church? Are we taking care of ourselves, our interest, or is it for the good of the wider community? That is paramount in our minds and our consciousness. No one is ordained in a vacuum,” he said. 

He said that “absolute ordination” or the ordination of someone for himself and not for a local church was deemed invalid, noting that ordination must always be meant for the service of the church. 

“God sees the heart and the mind. Focus on the church. Your lives as priests mean nothing if not for the church,” Tagle said. 

“(We should) not focus on ourselves but to the church and the wider community. The Holy Spirit has appointed you to oversee the faith of this community. Watch over yourself and watch over this community for it was obtained at the cost of the blood of Christ,” he added. 

“This church that has nurtured your vocation will be the same Church to which you will give your life. Focus on the apostles who gave their lives like Jesus to the church. As successors of the apostles may our minds and hearts always be focused on the church that Jesus loved and died for,” Tagle said. 

Spirit-sensitive followers 

Noting the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, Tagle urged priests to heed its call and use it as a guide in fulfilling their mission of new evangelization. 

“The Holy Spirit impels someone to mission. It does not impel only for personal sanctification, but drives a person to bring glad tidings to the poor…the spirit transforms someone into a bearer of good news and the joy that the good news brings with it,” he said. 

He stressed that only those who are open to listen to the actions of the spirit can efficiently communicate the message of the good news to others. 

“We need spirit-sensitive followers of Christ and we need ordained priests who are driven by the spirit. Not the spirit of the world that is for the flesh, but the spirit of the risen one,” he added. 

“It is only those who are filled with the spirit of Jesus who could go and bring the good news to the poor, lowly and ignorant …Their need for sanctification will be the driving force to wake you up every morning. They will occupy your minds…And you will not go wrong if you bring the good news where the Spirit wants that good news to be brought,” he added. (Jennifer Orillaza)

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