1 Peter 5:1-4
The Role of Priests…
Today’s verse tells us the role of priests in our Church:
“So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” -1 Peter 5:1-4, NAB
If you have not put two and two together, when Peter is talking to the presbyters, he is talking to the priests. Notice how Peter states that he is a “fellow presbyter.” So, at this point, Peter no longer sees himself simply as a former fisherman; he has taken his place in the Church as a priest.
The first challenge that he makes to them is on their motivation as a priest. Choosing to become a priest is a difficult decision, and Peter recognizes this. When someone takes the vocational path of Holy Orders, they must do so in a Godly manner. From that point on, God asks them to “tend the flock.” Just as Christ is often compared to a shepherd, priests are now charged with taking care of Christ’s flock for Him. It is an important part of a priest’s earthly mission. From the local parish to the classroom, priests must watch over each one of us.
Next, Peter challenges them in their leadership style. While there are many ways to go about being a leader, Peter is pretty specific about how it should be done. Priests should not lead their parish as an authoritarian figure. They should not make decisions and enforce the Gospel from the throne in their parish. Instead, just as Christ came down to be an example for us, they too are to be examples in our lives. The way they live and the choices they make should serve as an example of a good Christian life.
The life of a priest is not easy. They make many sacrifices to live as God has called them. We must remember to appreciate them for who they are and what they do. When the world thinks of Catholics, most will immediately think of men in all black with white collars. They are the face of our Church, and our trusted leaders. May God continue to bless our priests and the work they do.