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Pope: The affection of God’s people helps us be good priests

© MASSIMILIANO MIGLIORATO/CPP
May 12, 2014: Pope Francis greets priests during a special audience with members of religious colleges in Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
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Leaving everything for Jesus means people will recognize the Lord in you, he says

The closer a priest is to God’s People, the closer he is to Jesus, and the closer he is to Jesus, the closer he’ll feel to the People of God.

Pope Francis said this today before praying the midday Angelus, as he reflected on the Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass, which included Jesus’ words: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Speaking about this, the pope said that “here our experience as priests teaches us something very beautiful, something very important: It is precisely this welcome from the holy and faithful people of God, it is precisely this ‘cup of cold water’ … given with an affectionate faith, that helps you to be a good priest!”

“There is a reciprocity in the mission,” he said. “If you leave everything for Jesus, people will recognize the Lord in you; but at the same time, this helps you to convert yourself to him every day, to renew yourself, to purify yourself in your commitments, and to overcome temptation.”

Just a few days ago, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the pope offered a similar reflection, saying that lay people who offer priests true friendship “are like the home of Bethany, where Jesus entrusted his weariness to Martha and Mary, and, thanks to their care, was able to find rest and refreshment.”

Read more: Priests need real “friends” too, says pope

The Holy Father also reflected today on verses earlier in this Gospel, with Jesus’ warning that whoever puts family relationships before him is not worthy of him.

“The affection of a father, the tenderness of a mother, the sweet friendship between brothers and sisters, even as they are very good and legitimate, cannot be placed before Christ,” the pope said. “Not because he wants us to be heartless and deprived of appreciation  — rather, in fact, the contrary — but because the condition for being a disciple demands a priority relationship with the master.”

This applies to any disciple, Francis said, whether lay, priest or bishop.

He suggested that the phrase from Chapter 2 of the Book of Genesis could “almost be paraphrased” in this regard: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to Jesus Christ, and the two of them become one body.”

Read more: How to Help Priests Smell Like Their Sheep

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