Sunday thoughts: Our shared responsibility to serve the Lord

By Monsignor John Devine

Last month's Pic had a photo of Bishop Tom and me at my induction as parish priest in the Isle of Man. The rite of induction lists the priest's duties, but not in the order you might expect. Presbyterium Ordinis (1965), the Vatican II document on the priesthood, lists the functions of priests as "Ministers of God's Word", "Ministers of the Sacrament and the Eucharist" and "Rulers of God's People". The same priorities are reflected in the induction rite.

First comes the duty to study, meditate on and proclaim the Word of God. Then comes the duty to gather the people for prayer and to support them as they carry out their mission to the world. Next comes the duty to nourish the people in the celebration of the sacraments: baptising, witnessing marriage vows, reconciliation, anointing the sick and the dying with holy oil. After this comes the duty to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again, and to feed God's people with the body and blood of Christ.

The rite, however, is not priest-centred. Each successive commitment demanded of the priest asks for a corresponding commitment from the people. They, too, are called to "listen and listen again" to the Good News and to preach Christ to others. They are called to pray with their priest and to collaborate in preparing for the reception of the sacraments. They, too, are to faithfully participate in celebrating and living out the sacred mysteries of Christ's body and blood.

The older I get, the more conscious I am of my shortcomings. The reassuring thing about the induction rite was that I am not called to serve the Lord alone. The rite of induction provides an opportunity for the whole parish to refresh and renew itself.