When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes.
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And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men.
To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes.
It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood.
Pope Francis: Priests should be ‘shepherds living with the smell of the sheep’
But not even the disciples — future priests — see or understand: The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers.
We know the difference: This I ask you: And what has it got to do with us? To know what something smells like, you have to get really close to it.
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Which is what Pope Francis was getting at when he preached that sermon — to lead well in the church, you have to get up close and personal with those you want to lead. Priesthood — in fact any role in the church — is, or should be, very much a hands-on thing. And that is the sort of shepherd Jesus is.
We — each one of us — are invited to know and be known by the one who spoke the universe into being, who overcame death, who knows and cares for each sparrow and for the whole cosmos all at the same time. We are invited into relationship with the one who is love, and that invitation is unconditional. That is the Good News.
Nothing can keep God from seeking those who stray, pope says
That love, that relationship, that deep and personal knowing, that closeness is not on any level theoretical. Think how close you have to be to someone to know their smell. That is how close Jesus comes to us, and how close we can come to God, through Christ. Jesus speaks to us, Jesus knows us, Jesus calls us each by name to follow him.
It is up to each of us to hear, to listen, to follow. That is our calling. Today is Vocations Sunday, when we celebrate all the many and varied things God calls us to, but this is as the root and heart of all vocations: Everything else comes from that.
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And when we do choose to follow Jesus, extraordinary things happen. Peter, who featured in our first reading today, was an ordinary sort of person. But he followed Jesus, and when he did, extraordinary things happened.