ONE IN CHRIST – Under the theme of “One in Christ,” the 2020 Assembly of National Association of Filipino Priests (NAFP) will provide the time for the Priests to commune with one another and respond to Christ’s prayer “That All May Be One”, focusing on fraternity, holiness, faithfulness and gratitude. The unity among priests and the sense of brotherhood among themselves is a gift from God by virtue of their vocation and ordination. Vatican II highlights that “priests by virtue of their ordination to the priesthood are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood.” (PO 8) This bond of unity among priests reinforces his identity in the Church. He is called not only to administer the sacraments, to live a life of missionary zeal for the salvation of souls but he is called to be in unity among the ranks of clergy. Whether religious or diocesan, priests are pastors to pastors caring, affirming and promoting each other’s vocation. Priests are brothers helping each other as fellow workers in the truth. (PO 8)
Priests administer the sacraments to his brother priests. He regularly avails himself in the sacrament of reconciliation. He confesses his own sins to his fellow priest. The Church reminds the priests that like any good faithful, the priest needs to confess his own sins and weaknesses. (Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests no. 53) Along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, priests seek spiritual direction and a companion in the ministry. Priests are companions of his brother priests amidst the hallenges of priestly life.
The spiritual accompaniment of the priests as pastors to pastors finds its foundation in the equality of grace all priests receive in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Priestly fraternity and membership in the presbyterate are elements providing priestly communion. The Directory on the Ministry and Life of the Priests (no. 25) mentions that the rite of the imposition of the hands by the Bishop and all of the priests present during the priestly Ordination has special significance and merit because it points to the equality of participation in the ministry, and to the fact that the priest cannot act by himself. He acts within the presbyterate becoming a brother of all those who constitute it. Even in the sacrament of baptism wherein the priest finds the foundation of his vocation characterizes him to be among the faithful of Christ is called to be a “brother among brothers.” (PDV 20)
Young and older priests protect, respect and learn from each other as companions in the ministry. Older priests should receive younger priests as true brothers and help them in their first undertakings and priestly duties. However, young priests should respect the age and experience of their seniors; they should seek their advice and willingly cooperate with them in everything that pertains to the care of souls. (PO 8)
SENT FOR HIS MISSION
Priests share in the ministry of Christ by virtue of ordination and mission. They also share in the continuing mission of Christ in building the Kingdom of God on earth. Sharing the same dignity in the ministry of Christ and the mission of the Church. Jesus prays to his Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) In identifying with Jesus, we are not only “not of this world,” but also sent right back into it on redemptive mission.
The classic text is Jesus’ commission at the end of John’s Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” John 20:21. Those whom Jesus calls, he also sends — a sending so significant that receiving his “sent ones” amounts to receiving him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” John 13:20. Such a sending should be awe-inspiring, whether our particular sending includes a change in geography and culture, or simply a fresh realization and missional orientation on our lives and labors among our native people.
But what are we “sent ones” sent for? What is this sending about? We are sent as representatives of the one born in Bethlehem and crucified at Calvary. We are sent to announce with all we are — with mouth and mind and heart and hands — that the Father sent the Son. We are sent to say and show that Jesus was sent into the world to save sinners (1 timothy 1:15). What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus and the good news about him 2 Corinthians 4:5). We are not the message, but mere messengers. His ultimate and utterly unique sending is that the Father sent his Son to share fully in our humanity is no mere model for mission. It is at the very heart of the Gospel which our mission aims to spread. Christian mission exists only because the Message still needs to be told. Jesus’ mission is unrepeatable. His Incarnation is utterly unique. We are meager delegates, unworthy servants. The more attention we give to the ultimately inimitable condescension of the Son of God, the less the language of “incarnation” seems to apply to our measly missional efforts.