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Avoid 'manic street' bishop tells new priests

Fourteen men and seven women newly ordained in Diocese of Melbourne at St Paul's Cathedral

Archbishop Phillip Freier with the newly ordained priests at St Paul's Cathedral

PHOTO: Janine Eastgate

By Roland Ashby

November 28 2017Engaging in frenetic mission activity on “manic street” is not a substitute for true discipleship, Bishop of the Murray John Ford said at an ordination service in St Paul’s Cathedral on 25 November. During the service Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, ordained 14 men and seven women to the priesthood in the Diocese of Melbourne.

In his sermon, Bishop Ford said that one of the temptations of today’s Church “is to engage in frenetic activity; paying urgent attention to its structure and funding, its shape and purpose, its leadership and administration – and whilst I know that it is not intended, this activity takes the place of the life of discipleship”.

“What we have in our urgent attempts to engage in God’s mission is in fact our own mission that is set on manic street and, if we are not careful, we go around in circles chasing our own tails and encouraging others to join us in what can only become a downward spiral – that, when recognised, only increases the pace and panic of the journey!”

He said there is “an urgency for a renewed understanding of the importance of preaching the Word… and an essential part of the ongoing discipleship of us all is to attend to how we preach Jesus, the Word”. This is not only done in the pulpit, but in “our daily living as witnesses to Jesus”.

The reading and study of Scripture, he warned, was not about becoming “expert commentators or exegetes”.

“What is important about the Scriptures is not their written-ness, which is instrumental, but the Word of God, whose instrument they are… The Bible is not ultimately a book for the study, for analysis, speculation and even exegesis, important though all those things are. The Bible is more a matter of celebrating, listening and living. It is a book for liturgy and life.”

He urged the new priests to become shepherds, pastors who imitate “the all-embracing compassion of Jesus who has given himself for all”.

“In your priestly ministry in a very real way, as you feed his flock, you will be giving Jesus to his brothers and sisters… He… calls you to an awesome ministry.

“Associated with the feeding, of course, is the gathering in. There are many who have strayed and for all kinds of reasons. It is our ministry to find them and gently bring them home. That is why it is essential that a priest is known as a person that can be approached, is concerned and caring, and, above all, has time to give.”

He said this approachability and sensitivity, “and awareness of time and space”, also needed to be reflected in the way they presided at the Eucharist.

You can download a full transcript of Bishop Ford's sermon here.