Vocation of a priest extends beyond church walls

Bishop Bernard Paul emphasised the importance of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘service’ to the clergy of the Diocese of Malacca Johore, highlighting these values as fundamental to the ministry of priests to the faithful.

Apr 04, 2024

Bishop Bernard Paul blessing the Oil of the Sick.

SEGAMAT, Johor: Bishop Bernard Paul emphasised the importance of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘service’ to the clergy of the Diocese of Malacca Johore, highlighting these values as fundamental to the ministry of priests to the faithful. He connected these principles to the context of the B.A.N.I. world, emphasising the challenges clergy face and proposing various countermeasures. These remarks were delivered during the Chrism Mass at the Church of St Philip on March 26.

Referring to the first reading (Isaiah 61:1, 3, 6, 8-9), Bishop Bernard highlighted that the prophet Isaiah presents the priest through two fundamental images – as ‘Priests of the Lord’ (embodying Sacrifice) and ‘Ministers of our God’ (representing Service), illustrating their inseparable nature. He explained that priests occupy a unique position, serving as a bridge between God and humanity, and also facilitating connections among people themselves. This role enables priests to be conduits for divine grace, allowing God’s presence to reach His people and fostering a spirit of communal spirituality.

The bishop made it clear that the vocation of a priest extends beyond the church’s walls. “We are sent into the world of today, not that of yesterday. Our mission isn’t to revive the past but to enliven the present and pave the way for the future. Priests are summoned for the challenges and needs of the present day; let’s not carry the past into our current tasks,” he stated.

The prelate continued, delving into the concept of the B.A.N.I. world in which we find ourselves today. He broke down the acronym: “Brittle” – highlighting the fragility of our world, where systems, families, and individual lives seem all too susceptible to breaking apart. In response to this brittleness, Bishop Bernard emphasised the crucial need for religious leaders who possess true “Backbone” ? individuals who stand firm, strong, and steady.

Addressing the notion of “Anxious,” the bishop observed that people are gripped by uncertainty, insecurity, and fear, not just within this nation but globally. To navigate these anxious times, he pointed out, the importance of “Alertness” in which clergy must remain vigilant, aware, and prepared to act decisively. "When the situation demands, respond with swift urgency and act out of the box,” Bishop Bernard advised.

Describing our existence in a “Nonlinear” world characterised by constant motion, change, and unpredictability, where forecasting and prediction are futile, the prelate emphasised the necessity of embracing “Newness.” He urged the clergy to adopt innovative approaches and solutions, cautioning against reliance on archaic and outdated methods. “In 2024, apply 2024 solutions, not those from 1990. Persisting with outdated solutions risks stagnating your parish community. Always prioritise new solutions for new challenges,” he emphasised.

Touching on the final acronym, which represents “Incomprehensible”, Bishop Bernard said that we live in world that has too many phases, too many levels, one which is too complexed for us to understand.

“Today the world and the Church needs “Intuition” not incomprehension. What you cannot see with your mind, you must see with your heart, see with your spirit. This is what the Church is trying to tell us – depend on the Holy Spirit. Listen to the life giving spirit that is present in creation, in communities, in one another. Sometimes the answer comes from the heart, from the Spirit,” said the bishop.

Reflecting on the challenges posed by the B.A.N.I world, Bishop Bernard remarked, “This is the world we must minister to. This is the world we must serve, the world in which we must learn to be priests. Do not attempt to draw people into your world. You must enter theirs. You must immerse yourself in the world that exists. This is what Jesus did. Incarnation means entering the world as it is, embracing it for what it is.”

In closing, the prelate reminded the clergy that their calling is not to embody B.A.N.I. principles, but to be Counter-B.A.N.I. priests.

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