Anyone who exercises the priestly ministry exercises it not for himself alone, but for others. “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in the things that pertain to God.” Christ himself taught that lesson when he compared the priest to salt and to light, in order to show the nature of the priestly ministry. The priest then is the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Everyone knows that he fulfills this function chiefly by the teaching of Christian truth; and who can be unaware that this ministry of teaching is practically useless if the priest fails to confirm by the example of his life the truths that he teaches? Those who hear him might say, insultingly it is true, but not without justification: “They profess that they know God but in their works they deny him;” they will refuse to accept his teaching and will derive no benefit from the light of the priest.
Christ himself, the model of priests, taught first by the example of his deeds and then by his words: “Jesus began to do and then to teach.”
Likewise, a priest who neglects his own sanctification can never be the salt of the earth; what is corrupt and contaminated is utterly incapable of preserving from corruption; where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way. Hence Christ, continuing this comparison, calls such priests salt that has lost its savor, “which is good for nothing any more, but to be cast out and to be trodden on by men.”
These truths are all the more evident inasmuch as we exercise the priestly ministry not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ. The Apostle said: “Let man so consider us as the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God; for Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors.” This is the reason that Christ has numbered us not among his servants but as his friends. “I will not now call you servants; . . . but I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard from my Father I have made known to you; . . . I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit.” – from Haerent Animo, August 4, 1908
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