Papal Homily at Ordination Mass
"The Lord's Goodness Is Always With You, and It Is Powerful"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's April 29 homily at the Mass of the ordination of new priests in St. Peter's Basilica.
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ORDINATION OF NEW PRIESTS FOR THE DIOCESE OF ROME
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter's Basilica
Fourth Sunday of Easter, 29 April 2007
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
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. Jn 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. Ex 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 kalós, good, which he only uses with reference to Jesus and his mission. In the account of the Wedding at Cana, the adjective kalós 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" (Jn 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. Jn 10:11).
John uses the verb tithénai -- 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. Jn 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. Jn 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 ...
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