2014-04-17 Vatican - “The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest.” At the Chrism Mass in Saint Peter’s, Pope Francis spoke about “priestly joy,” a joy, he said, “which anoints us,” an “imperishable joy,” a “missionary joy.”

The joy which anoints priests, the Pope said, “has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them, and strengthened them sacramentally.” It is a joy that can never be taken away; although it “can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles … deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed.”

Pope Francis focused especially on the third feature of priestly joy: “Priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy.” This joy, he said, “arises only when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock.” There, his joy is “guarded” by the faithful, by “God’s faithful people” who are able to protect and embrace their priests, to help them open their hearts “to find renewed joy.”

Priestly joy, the Holy Father continued, is guarded, not only by the flock, but “by three sisters who surround it, tend it, and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity, and sister obedience.”

Explaining these three “sisters,” the Pope said that because the priest is poor “in terms of purely human joy,” he must seek his joy “from the Lord and from God’s faithful people.” The priest must go out of himself, seeking God and the people of God. “Going out of ourselves,” he said, “presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.”

Priestly joy is also a “sister to fidelity,” Pope Francis said – not, he explained, “in the sense that we [priests] are all ‘immaculate’ (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are all sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church.” Priests will find true joy when they are faithful to their mission, doing “all that he has to do, and letting go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord entrusted to him.”

Finally, priests find joy in “sister obedience,” an obedience not only to the externals of their mission, “but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood.” The Pope continued, “It is also an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always, and as best I can,” following the example of Mary.

“All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world,” Pope Francis said. “It is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord might “enable many young people to discover the burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call.” He prayed, too, for the recently ordained, for priests who have been in ministry for some time, and for elderly priests.