This was a point strongly and repeatedly pounded on me and my batch during our pre-ordination seminar many years ago. Only Christ should shine out in our ministry. We have to learn to pass unnoticed, avoiding grabbing the focus of public attention from the real light of the world.
When we say Mass and administer the sacraments, when we preach, when we make public appeal for some aid, and even when we go around, etc., we should try our best that it is Christ whom people see, hear, appreciate, give glory and thanks to. It’s not us, the priests, who at best can only be ministers of Christ and, as such, have the grave duty to show and give Christ to the people.
This is, of course, a tough task to do, for which we, priests, have been given the sacramental grace, to show that more than us and our human powers, it is Christ who is actually doing things through us. We, priests, should always be aware that we are living and doing things mainly in the spiritual and supernatural sphere of the world.
But, obviously, to that grace the priests should correspond as best that we can, always purifying our intention, always conscious of who we are and of whom we are representing and ministering, always aware of our need to use all the means to fit the role given to us as perfectly as possible.
This will require of the priests some relevant skills of how to present oneself to the people and manage to show Christ, how to lead in order to serve, how to follow Christ closely in order to lead the people.
For this, priests should just try our best to know how to interpret and play out that indication given by Christ that we have to be clever like serpents yet innocent like doves. (cfr. Mt 10,16) We have to learn how to be both servants and leaders at the same time.
We have to know how to make full use of our human powers at the exclusive service of showing and giving Christ to the people. We have to be wary of the danger to taint our intentions with some ulterior motives of wanting to gain some human glory for ourselves.
This is the usual danger of those who are more gifted in terms of intelligence, talents, speaking prowess, etc. They have to do everything to be properly guarded against this danger, going the extra mile to hide and disappear even as they give their all in their ministry.
They have to go deep in the virtue of humility and obedience, having no other desire than to be like Christ who emptied himself completely by becoming man being God, and by offering his life on the cross for the sins of mankind.
They should have no other desire than to serve and to offer their lives as a ransom for sins of men. That is why the Pope, who is the very Vicar of Christ here on earth, describes himself as the ‘Servant of servants.’
Definitely, this will require a lot of training and discipline. But the effort needed will always be worthwhile and will surely redound to the good of all. It will be an effort that will not go unnoticed by Christ himself who cannot be outdone in generosity.
Let us hope and pray that every priest will always exude the identity and presence of Christ wherever he is, whatever he is doing, and especially when he administers the sacraments. This is not a pipe dream, an exaggeration. Christ has given the priest everything for the priest to represent Christ sacramentally. The priest just has to do his part.
What a beautiful world we would have if every priest truly becomes ‘another Christ’ as head of the Church!