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Benedict XVI's Homily at Vespers in Altoetting

"Let Us Love Being With the Lord"

ALTOETTING, Germany, SEPT. 12, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at the celebration of Vespers Monday in Altoetting's Basilica of St. Anne, attended by religious and seminarians.

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Dear Friends!

Here in Altoetting, in this grace-filled place, we have gathered seminarians preparing for the priesthood, priests, men and women religious and members of the Society for Spiritual Vocations in the Basilica of St. Anne, before the shrine to her daughter, the Mother of the Lord.

We have gathered here to consider our vocation to serve Jesus Christ and, under the watchful gaze of St. Anne, in whose home the greatest vocation in the history of salvation developed, to understand it better. Mary received her vocation from the lips of an angel. The angel does not enter our room visibly, but the Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls each one of us by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive his call, to be courageous and faithful in following him and, when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given us.

We know that the Lord seeks laborers for his harvest. He himself said as much: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). That is why we are gathered here: to make this urgent request to the Lord of the harvest.

God's harvest is indeed great, and it needs laborers: In the so-called Third World -- in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia -- people are waiting for heralds to bring them the Gospel of peace, the good news of God who became man. But also in the so-called West, here among us in Germany, and in the vast lands of Russia it is true that a great harvest could be reaped. But there is a lack of people willing to become laborers for God's harvest.

Today it is as then, when the Lord was moved with pity for the crowds which seemed like sheep without a shepherd -- people who probably knew how to do many things, but found it hard to make sense of their lives.

Lord, look upon our troubled times, which need preachers of the Gospel, witnesses to you, persons who can point the way toward life in abundance! Look upon our world and feel pity once more! Look upon our world and send us laborers!

With this petition we knock on God's door; but with the same petition the Lord is also knocking on the doors of our own heart. Lord do you want me? Is it not perhaps too big for me? Am I too small for this? Do not be afraid, the angel said to Mary. Do not fear: I have called you by name, God says through the Prophet Isaiah (43:1) to us -- to each of us.

Where do we go, if we say yes to the Lord's call? The briefest description of the priestly mission -- and this is true in its own way for men and women religious too -- has been given to us by the Evangelist Mark. In his account of the call of the Twelve, he says: Jesus appointed twelve to be with him and to be sent out (3:14).

To be with Jesus and, being sent, to go out to meet people -- these two things belong together and together they are the heart of a vocation, of the priesthood. To be with him and to be sent out -- the two are inseparable. Only one who is with him comes to know him and can truly proclaim him. Anyone who has been with him cannot keep to himself what he has found; instead, he has to pass it on.

Such was the case with Andrew, who told his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah (John 1:41). And the evangelist adds: He brought Simon to Jesus (John 1:42). St. Gregory the Great, in one of his homilies, once said that the angels, however far afield they go on their missions, always move in God. They remain always with him.

From this reflection on the angels, St. Gregory went on to think of bishops and priests: Wherever they go, they should always be with him. We know this from experience: Whenever priests, because of their many duties, allot less and less time to being with the Lord, they eventually lose, for all their often heroic activity, the inner strength that sustains them. Their activity becomes an empty activism.

To be with Christ -- how does this come about? Well, the first and most important thing for the priest is his daily Mass, always celebrated with deep interior participation. If we celebrate Mass truly as men of prayer, if we unite our words and our activities to the Word that precedes us and let them be shaped by the Eucharistic celebration, if in Communion we let ourselves truly be embraced by him and receive him -- then we are being with him.

The Liturgy of the Hours is another fundamental way of being with Christ: Here we pray as people conscious of our need to speak with God, while lifting up all those others who have neither the ...

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