Pope: The priest, like the Good Shepherd, “rejected” by the world, gifts his life for his sheep
“The disciple –he added – faces his Master’s same fate”: he will know the Father, but will also experience “on his own, the world’s rejection of God, incomprehension, indifference, the disfiguring of the face of God…..therefore the disciple – and above all the apostle – experiences Christ’s joys, he will know the name and face of the Father, and share in his same pain, in seeing that God is not known, and his love is not reciprocated”.
“It is true – added the pontiff – and we priests experience this: the ‘world’ – in the johannine sense of the term – does not understand the Christian, does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. To some extent, this is because it does not know God at all, but also because it does not want to know Him. The world does not want to know God or listen to his ministers because this would throw it into crisis”.
The strength of priestly vocation is fruit of Christ’s gift: “Jesus laid down his life for all of us, but in a very special way he consecrated himself for those entrusted him by the Father, so they may be consecrated in the truth, that is in Him, so they may speak and act in His name, represent Him, prolong His salvific gestures: break the Bread of Life and forgive sins. Thus, the Good Shepherd offered his life for all sheep, but he gifted it and still gifts it especially for those, ‘with preferential affection’, he has called and still calls to follow him on the path of pastoral service”. And what’s more: “each and every priest is the personal recipient of Christ’s prayer, and of his same sacrifice, and only in this way is he able to collaborate with Him in herding the flock that belongs solely to the Lord”.
From this call for “his disciples” to “enter into Christ’s prayer in a sacramental and existential way” reflected the pope “a particular vocation to prayer for all presbyteries is derived”. The pope listed the way in which to pray: daily mass (“the greatest and highest act of prayer”), the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, the lectio divina, the Holy Rosary, Rosario, meditation. And he adds: “A priest who prays a lot, and prays well, is progressively removed from himself and increasingly united to Jesus Good Shepherd and Servant of his brothers. In conformity with Him, the priest ‘gives his life’ for the sheep entrusted him. No one takes it from him: he offers it up himself, in union with Christ, who has the power to give his life and to take it not only for himself, but also for his friends, bound to Him through the Sacrament of Holy Ordination. Thus the same life of Christ, Lamb and Shepherd, is communicated to his flock, through consecrated ministers”.
Finally Benedict XVI wished the soon-to-be ordained deacons that “the Holy Spirit impress this divine Word” on their hearts “so it bear abundant and lasting fruit”. And he invoked the intercession of the apostles Peter and Paul, Saint John Maria Vianney, to whom he has consecrated the next Year of Priestly Vocations, and Mary, the “Mother of the Good Shepherd”.