Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis)

Chapter II of the document is called ‘The Ministry of Priests’. Section 1 of this chapter speaks of the priest’s functions. It consists of three paragraphs and they address the major areas of the ministry of priests. In n.4 of the document, the first paragraph of this section, the bishops highlight the preaching of the Gospel: “The People of God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God. And rightfully they expect this from their priests. Since no one can be saved who does not first believe, priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all. In this way they fulfil the command of the Lord: “Going therefore into the whole world preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), and they establish and build up the People of God. Through the saving word the spark of faith is lit in the hearts of unbelievers, and fed in the hearts of the faithful. This is the way that the congregation of faithful is started and grows, just as the Apostle describes: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).”

As we see in the passage quoted, this function is primary because it leads to faith — the point is founded on the Lord’s command to go into the whole world preaching the Gospel to every creature and as Paul says-in Romans, faith comes from hearing. We have to hear or be presented with the faith in order to receive it. What is to be presented is based on the word of Christ. Bishops and priests have to keep the word of God alive in their hearts in order to be able to present it to a world that is searching for meaning. It is the foundation of faith and should be always presented as such. The bishops were aware of the difficulties that can arise in proclaiming the faith in the modern world: “But priestly preaching is often very difficult in the circumstances of the modern world. In order that it might more effectively move people’s minds, the word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular circumstances of life.”

The sharing of the word is done with practising and with non-practising people and is presented in different ways and contexts. We will look at the importance of this function and how it is relevant to the life of the faith community next week.