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Pope's Prepared Text for Clergy of Freising

"It Is All About Being With Christ"

FREISING, Germany, SEPT. 15, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI prepared, but did not deliver -- as he preferred to give a spontaneous reflection -- to the priests and deacons whom he met with this morning in the cathedral of Freising.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood!
Dear Permanent Deacons!

This is my last meeting before taking leave of my beloved Bavaria, and I am pleased that it is taking place with you, the priests and permanent deacons, the living and chosen stones of the Church. I express my fraternal greetings to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter and my heartfelt gratitude for his warm words interpreting the sentiments of all present.

When I look around this magnificent cathedral of Freising, so many memories come back to me of the years when my journey to the priesthood and the exercise of my ministry were linked to this place. And when I think of the generations of believers who, from the time of the first missionaries, have given to this country its distinctively Christian character and transmitted to us the treasure of the faith, a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving rises up to God from my heart.

Throughout its history, the "Lord of the harvest" has never allowed this land to be deprived of laborers, those ministers of the word and the altar through whom he wished to guide and nourish our ancestors along the paths of time toward their heavenly homeland. Today, dear brothers, it is our turn to carry out this work, and I am pleased to be with you as the Bishop of Rome, affectionately urging you not to grow weary, but to pursue with confidence the ministry entrusted to you.

We have just listened to the biblical reading taken from the ninth chapter of Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 9:35-38). Here we can see expressed an inner attitude of Jesus that is very important for us. This attitude actually marks his entire public life. It is expressed in an agricultural image.

With the eyes of his heart, Jesus sees in the people gathered around him the "harvest" of God the Father, ready for reaping. And the harvest is abundant: "the harvest is plentiful," he says (v. 37; cf. Luke 10:2). In the Gospel according to John, we find the same image in the fourth chapter, where, after his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says to his disciples: "Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest" (v. 35).

Christ sees the world as "God's field" (cf. Matthew 13:38-43), in which a rich harvest is growing and there is need of reapers. Something similar is to be found also in Mark's Gospel (4:26-29). The fundamental approach of Jesus emerging from these different sayings is one of optimism, based on confidence in the power of the Father, the "Lord of the harvest" (Matthew 9:38).

Jesus' confidence becomes for us a source of hope, since he is capable of looking beyond the veil of appearances to the mysterious yet irresistible workings of the Father. The seed of the Word of God always bears fruit. And so the harvest of God is growing, even when to merely human eyes, this does not seem to be the case.

A priest's life and the real nature of his vocation and ministry are contained in the worldview revealed to us by Jesus. This same worldview moved the Lord to go from village to village, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing the sick (cf. Matthew 9:35). Like the sower of the parable, he sowed the seed with apparently reckless generosity, and part of it has fallen on the road, on rocky soil, or among thorns (cf. Matthew 13:3-8).

Underlying this generosity is a confidence in the power of the Father to change rocky or thorny ground into fertile soil. Each priest must let himself be filled with the same confidence in the power of grace, since he himself was a piece of ground needing to be cleared by the divine sower so that the seed could take root and ripen into a mature and fully-grown response, the response of "Here I am" which we made at our ordination and renew each day in communion with Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist.

By his progressive assimilation to the sentiments of the Teacher, the priest will come to share in his confident approach. By entering more and more deeply into Jesus' own way of seeing things, he learns to see all around him as the "harvest of God," ready to be gathered into the granaries of heaven (cf. Matthew 13:30). Grace will be active through him and consequently he will help to elicit sincere and generous responses to God's call.

Nevertheless, we must always keep in mind the words of our biblical text: It is the "Lord of the harvest" who "sends" laborers into his harvest. Jesus did not give his disciples the task of calling other volunteers or organizing promotional ...

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