In his homily for daily Mass yesterday at the chapel of the St. Martha Residence in the Vatican, Pope Francis focused on the sacramental anointing of God as it is given to priests and bishops as part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, marking their special role of service to the Church. “Today, thinking about this anointing of David, it will do us good to think of our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests, and pray for them. We are here today thanks to them,” the Holy Father said. The Pope drew a great deal of his remarks on the topic of anointing from the First Book of Samuel, where yesterday's first reading comes from. “Without this anointing, David would have been only the head of a company or a “political society, which was the Kingdom of Israel,” the Pontiff taught, “after the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord descends upon David and remains with him, this is precisely the difference anointing makes."
The Holy Father then explained that bishops also undergo a similar kind of anointing. “The bishops are elected not only to conduct an organization, which is called the particular Church, they are anointed. They have the anointing and the Spirit of the Lord is with them, all the bishops are sinners, every one; still, we are anointed,” the Pope explained, “we all want to be more holy every day, more faithful to this anointing. The person of the bishop is the thing that constitutes a Church as such, in the name of Jesus Christ – because he is anointed, not because he was voted by the majority.”
“It is in this anointing that a particular Church has its strength. Because they take part in the bishop’s mission of service priests are anointed, as well,” said the Pope. The anointing of priests and bishops "brings bishops and priests closer to the Lord, and gives them the strength to carry their people forward, to help their people, to live in the service of their people,” the Pontiff preached, "it gives them the joy of feeling chosen by the Lord, watched by the Lord, with that love with which the Lord looks upon all of us, and therefore “when we think of bishops and priests, we must think of them in this way, as anointed ones.”
“It is impossible to understand – not only – it is impossible to explain how the Church could continue under merely human strength, but this diocese goes forward because it has a holy people…and also an anointed one who leads, who helps it to grow,” said the Holy Father, pointing out that when looking back on the history of the Church, we only know a small fraction of “how many holy bishops, how many priests, how many holy priests have given their lives in the service of the diocese, the parish.”
“How many people have received the power of faith, the power of love, hope (itself) from these anonymous pastors? We do not know: there are so many,” the Pope pointed out. “The parish priests of the country or the city, who, with their anointing have given strength the people, who have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments, holiness.” The Pope then turned the attention of his homily to those who are so often critical of priests. “‘But, Father, I have read in a newspaper that a bishop has done such a thing, or a priest who has done this thing.’ Oh yes, I read it, too, tell me, though: do the papers carry news of what great charity so many priests, so many priests in so many parishes of the city and the countryside, perform? Of the great work they do in carrying their people forward? No?”
“This is not news,” Francis said, “it is the same as always: a single falling tree makes more noise than a forest that grows