During the past few months, we’ve looked at the three broad kinds of leadership exercised by bishops in the Church: the ministries of teaching, of sanctifying, and of governing. We’re in the middle of examining the second of these, the leadership of sanctifying.
In celebrating the sacred liturgy – including the Mass and other Sacraments and worship, plus the Liturgy of the Hours – bishops and priests sanctify the faithful. They conduct these services with dutifulness and reverence, and within them encourage us all to holiness by their preaching and example.
Of course, it’s important to remember what’s really going on here. As the Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, once said, “No man on his own, relying on his own power, can put another in touch with God … It is Christ Himself who makes us holy…” (May 5, 2010). The Holy Father went on to recall at that time, “At the center of the Church’s worship is the notion … that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through His action. He looks upon us and He leads us to Himself....”
Therefore, there must always be in a bishop’s or priest’s ministry a fundamental awareness: each of us must know full well that he is an instrument – perhaps a necessary component to God’s saving action but at the same time still only an instrument. This ought to build up the virtue of humility among those who exercise the leadership of sanctifying. I know for me personally it’s sort of a daunting thought, to think that God has chosen to work through me. It also inspires me – and again, I hope all those who exercise ministerial priesthood in the Church – to be more generous in offering the Sacraments and other public worship, since we must mirror on behalf of the Lord His own generosity. Christ gave the totality of His life for us; who are we to decide to give of ourselves only partially?