Bishops’ loves are to be Christ and their flock, not their career.
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta as he reflected on today’s Gospel reading where the Apostle Paul, “compelled by the Holy Spirit,” takes his leave from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem.
In the homily, the Pope expressed his hope that all bishops follow the example of the Apostle Paul with his obedience to the Holy Spirit and his love for his flock.
The Holy Father also called on them to discern properly the voice of God from the voices which come from the spirit of the world.
Reflecting on Paul’s decision, the Pope said: “It’s a decisive move, a move that reaches the heart, it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down.”
The Apostle, the Jesuit Pope pointed out, made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. While Paul seemed “a bit proud,” the Pope noted, he clarified that Paul, in fact, was “objective,” as he only boasted of two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”
Reflecting on how the Apostle listens to the Holy Spirit, Francis said Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem.
“This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world,” the Pontiff noted, is essential.
Paul, in a way, the Pope observed, knew he was going “toward trials, towards the cross and this recalls for us Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, doesn’t it?”
The Apostle and bishop ‘obediently offering himself up to the Lord,’ and going forward according to the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, is Paul.
The Pope noted how Paul takes his leave amidst the pain of those present by giving them advice in a testament which is not a worldly testament “about leaving belongings to this person or that person.”
Paul’s great love, said the Pope, is Jesus Christ, and his second, is his flock.
“Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”
Paul, Francis reminded, entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them.
Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge,” the Pope said, was no worldly testament. Paul had nothing to leave to others, but “the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”
The Pope, according to Vatican News, continued: “When I read this, I think about myself,” he declared, “because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”
Pope Francis concluded, noting he is thinking of all bishops and praying: “May the Lord grant all of us the grace to be able to take our leave and step down in this way, like Paul, with that spirit, with that strength, with that love for Jesus Christ and this faith in the Holy Spirit.”