Pope: 22 new priests, images of the Good Shepherd, in the joy of their mission
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Twenty two young men from Italy, but also from the Philippines, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Slovakia were ordained today by Benedict XVI in a suggestive ceremony in St Peters Basilica, concelebrated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar for the diocese of Rome, along with various auxiliary bishops.
Some of the newly ordained hail from Roman collages and seminaries, others are students from seminaries run by the Neocathecumenal movement (Redemptoris Mater) or Legion of Christ. Their initiation to the priesthood took place on the very day the universal Church celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday” (IV Sunday of Easter) and the 44th world day of prayer for vocations.
In his homily Benedict XVI underlined first and foremost the profound unity between the priest and the Good Shepherd, “the Son of man who wanted to share the human condition in order to gift them new life and guide them to salvation”, defined as “good” (kalos), a sign of definitive beauty and goodness “since messianic times”. One’s relationship with Christ “is a deep and personal relationship; knowledge of the heart of he who loves and is loved; of he who is faithful and in turn has faith; knowledge of love because of which the Shepherd invites his to follow him”. This relationship is also “a source of constant consolation and indestructible hope”. Because “Christ never abandons us” and “no obstacle can ever impede his universal plan of salvation”.
“The Sacrament of Holy Orders which you are about to receive – continued the Pontiff as he turned to the candidates – will make you participants in Christ’s mission; you will be called to sow the seeds of his Word, the seeds which contain the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and feed the faithful at the banquet of his Body and his Blood. In order to worthy ministers you must continually feed yourselves of the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life. Stay close to the altar, your daily school of holiness, to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, renew your own discovery of the richness of the Divine Master’s love, which today has called you to an even more intimate friendship with Him. If you listen to him carefully, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to translate your lives and your pastoral mission into his love and passion for the salvation of souls. Each one of you my dear Ordinates, with God’s help will become a good shepherd, ready to give, if necessary, even your lives for Him”.
An element that the pope deliberately underscored is the joy of priesthood, even in the midst of difficulties. Citing a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, in today’s reading, Benedict XVI said: “ “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (13,52). In spite of the misunderstandings and contrasts, Christ’s apostle does not loose that joy, no; he is the witness of that joy which is born of being with the Lord, from love for Him and his brothers”.
Commenting then on the theme of the world day of prayer for vocations (“Vocations at the service of Church communion”), the pope underlined that a growth in vocations depends strongly on prayer, formation and the attention of the family and entire Christian community. Turning to the families and friends of the newly ordained the pope advised: “Let us surround, these our Lord’s brothers, with our spiritual solidarity. Let u spray that they remain faithful to the mission which the Lord entrusts to them today, and that they are ready to renew each and every day their ‘yes’ to God, there ‘Here I am’ without any reserves. Let us ask the Lord of the mass, on this day dedicated to vocations, that he continues to evoke many holy presbyteries, wholly dedicated to the service to the Christian people”.
The last thoughts of the homily went to the Ordinates: “Jesus says to you today – said the pope – ‘I no longer call you servants, but friends’. Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with ‘Eucharistic love’! Mary, celestial Mother of Priests accompanies you; She who beneath the Croce joined herself to Her Sons sacrifice, and who after His resurrection in the Cenacle welcomed His gift of the Holy Spirit together with the apostles and the other disciples, helps all of us and each one of you, my dear friends in the Priesthood, to allow ourselves be transformed inside through the grace of God. Only in this way is it possible to become faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can the mission to know, love and lead the flock which Christ won with the price of his blood, be carried out with joy. Amen!”.