ORDINATION OF NEW PRIESTS FOR THE DIOCESE OF ROME
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter's Basilica
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter traditionally known as "Good Shepherd Sunday", has a special significance for us who are gathered in this Vatican Basilica. It is an absolutely unique day especially for you, dear deacons, upon whom, as Bishop and Pastor of Rome, I am pleased to confer priestly Ordination. In this way you join our "presbyterium".
Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and the priests of the Diocese, I thank the Lord for the gift of your priesthood which enriches our Community with 22 new Pastors.
The theological density of the brief Gospel passage which has just been proclaimed helps us to perceive better the meaning and value of this solemn Celebration.
Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd who gives eternal life to his sheep (cf. John 10: 28). This image of the shepherd is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and dear to Christian tradition. The Prophets attributed to David the title: "Shepherd of Israel", which hence possesses an indisputable messianic importance (cf. Exodus 34: 23).
Jesus is the true Shepherd of Israel, since he is the Son of Man who desired to share the condition of human beings to give them new life and lead them to salvation.
Significantly, the Evangelist adds to the term "shepherd" the adjective kalůs, good, which he only uses with reference to Jesus and his mission. In the account of the Wedding at Cana, the adjective kalůs is also used twice to signify the wine offered by Jesus, and it is easy to see it as a symbol of the good wine of messianic times (cf. 2: 10).
"I give them (that is, to my sheep) eternal life and they shall never perish" (John 10: 28). These are the words of Jesus, who had said a little earlier, "the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (cf. John 10: 11).
John uses the verb tithťnai - to offer, which he repeats in the following verses (cf. 15, 17, 18). We find the same verb in the Last Supper narrative when Jesus "laid aside his garments" in order to "take" them back later (cf. Jn 13: 4, 12).
Thus, it is clear that the intention is to affirm that the Redeemer has absolute freedom to do with his life as he chooses and thereby give it up or take it back freely.
Christ is the true Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, for us, sacrificing himself on the Cross. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him, just as the Father knows him and he knows the Father (cf. John 10: 14-15).
This is not a matter of mere intellectual knowledge but of a profound, personal relationship: a knowledge of the heart, of one who loves and one who is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows how to be trustworthy.
It is a knowledge of love, by virtue of which the Pastor invites his sheep to follow him and which is fully manifest in the gift of eternal life that he offers to them (cf. John 10: 27-28).
Dear Ordinandi, may the certainty that Christ does not abandon us and that no obstacle can prevent the accomplishment of his universal plan of salvation be a cause of constant consolation - also in difficulties - and steadfast hope for you. The Lord's goodness is always with you, and it is powerful.
The Sacrament of Orders, which you are about to receive, will make you sharers in the very mission of Christ; you will be called to scatter the seed of his Word, the seed that carries in itself the Kingdom of God; to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful at the table of his Body and Blood.
To be his worthy ministers, you must ceaselessly nourish yourselves with the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life.
In approaching the altar, your daily school of holiness, of communion with Jesus, of the way of entering into his sentiments in order to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, you will increasingly discover the richness and tenderness of the love of the divine Teacher, who today is calling you to a closer friendship with him.
If you listen docilely to him, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to express in your life and in your pastoral ministry his love and his passion for the salvation of souls.
With Jesus' help, dear Ordinandi, each one of you will become a Good Shepherd, ready, if necessary, to lay down your life for him.
Thus it was at the beginning of Christianity with the first disciples, while as we heard in the First Reading the Gospel continued to be disseminated amid consolations and difficulties.
It is worth stressing the last words in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard: "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (13: 52).
Despite the misunderstandings and disagreements, about which we have heard, the apostle of Christ does not lose joy; indeed, he is a witness of that joy which flows from being with the Lord and from love for him and for the brothers and sisters.
On today's World Day of Prayer for Vocations, whose theme this year is: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion", let us pray that all who are chosen to such a lofty mission may be accompanied by the prayerful communion of all the faithful
Let us pray that in every parish and Christian community attention to vocations and to the formation of priests will increase: it begins in the family, continues at the seminary and involves all who have at heart the salvation of souls.
Dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this evocative celebration, and in the first place you, relatives, family members and friends of these 22 deacons who will shortly be ordained priests!
Let us surround these brothers of ours in the Lord with our spiritual solidarity. Let us pray that they may be faithful to the mission to which the Lord is calling them today and ready to renew their "yes" to God, their "here I am", every day without reserve.
And let us ask the Lord of the harvest on this Day for Vocations to continue to bring forth many holy priests who are totally dedicated to the service of the Christian people.
At this most solemn and important moment of your life, dear Ordinandi, I once again address you with affection. On this day Jesus repeats to you: "I no longer call you servants, but friends". Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with "Eucharistic love"!
May Mary, the heavenly Mother of priests, accompany you. May she who beneath the Cross united herself with the Sacrifice of her Son and after the Resurrection accepted together with the other disciples the gift of the Spirit, help you and each one of us, dear brothers in the priesthood, to allow ourselves to be inwardly transformed by God's grace.
Only in this way is it possible to be faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can we carry out joyfully the mission of knowing, guiding and loving the flock which Jesus acquired at the price of his blood. Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of Godís encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
The homily delivered by the Holy Father is based on the one that appears in the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of priests, with one or two personal additions.
Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.
It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.
After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.
In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd Godís people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lordís sacrifice.
Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith! They transmitted to you this gift of faith. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach. Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God. And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.
In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christís faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is Godís Church.
Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an un-bloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lordís death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.
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