Vatican City, Apr 24, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed that God would give pastors the courage to be close to their people as he celebrated Mass Friday.
The pope asked that the Lord would “above all teach us not to be afraid of God’s people, not to be afraid to be close to them.”
Speaking from the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, his Vatican residence, April 24, he said that pastors must avoid becoming mere “pastoral business managers” as Jesus wants every priest to have a “shepherd’s heart”.
“The power of the pastor is service,” he said. “He has no other power. When you begin to make mistakes taking other powers your vocation is ruined.”
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, John 6:1-15, in which Jesus used five loaves and two fish to feed a large crowd. He noted that the disciples were tired and did not want the crowd to come between them and the Lord. By contrast, Jesus sought to be close to the people and to teach the disciples how to become true pastors.
Celebrating Mass before a small congregation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pope said that the disciples saw themselves as “a privileged class, ‘an aristocracy,’ so to speak,” but that Jesus repeatedly corrected them.
He gave the examples of when the disciples tried to prevent children from approaching the Lord and he rebuked them (Matthew 19:13-15), and when people on the road to Jericho ordered a blind man to stop crying out “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:35-43).
The pope recalled “a great pastor from a simple, humble neighborhood” who once told him that he wished he could have some rest from his parishioners’ demands.
“But he realized he was a shepherd and had to be with people,” he said. “And Jesus … teaches the disciples, the apostles, this pastoral attitude that is closeness to the people of God.”
Pope Francis concluded the celebration with adoration and benediction, leading those following via livestream in an act of spiritual communion.
Those gathered in the chapel then sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”
At the start of the Mass, the pope prayed for teachers and students adapting to the new circumstances created by the pandemic.
He said: “We pray today for teachers who have to work so hard to lead lessons via the internet and other media channels and we also pray for students who have to take exams in a way they are not used to. Let us accompany them with prayer.”