The Gospel we have heard presents to us an important moment in Jesus' journey, the moment when he asks his disciples what people think of him and their own opinion of him. Peter answers on behalf of the Twelve with a profession of faith substantially different from the people's opinion of Jesus; in fact he says: You are the Christ of God (cf. Luke 9: 20). What is the origin of this act of faith? If we go to the beginning of the Gospel passage, we note that Peter's profession is linked to a moment of Prayer: "as he [Jesus] was praying alone the disciples were with him", St Luke says (9: 18). In other words the disciples become involved in Jesus' absolutely unique being and speaking with the Father. And so it is that they are granted to see the Teacher in his intimate condition as Son, they are granted to see what the others do not see; from "being with him", from "being with him" in prayer, derives a knowledge that goes beyond the people's opinion to reach the profound identity of Jesus, to reach the truth. Here we are given a very precise instruction for the priest's life and mission: he is called to rediscover in prayer the ever new face of his Lord and the most authentic content of his mission. Only those who have a profound relationship with the Lord are grasped by him, can take him to others, can be sent out. "Abiding with him" must always accompany the exercise of the priestly ministry. It must be its central part, even and above all in difficult moments when it seems that the "things that need doing" should have priority, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we must always "abide with him".
I would like to underline a second element of today's Gospel. Immediately after Peter's profession, Jesus announces his Passion and Resurrection and follows this announcement with a teaching concerning the journey of the disciples, which means following him, the Crucified One, and following him on the Way of the Cross. And he then adds with paradoxical words that being a disciple means "losing his life", but in order to save himself fully (cf. Luke 9: 22-24). What does this mean for every Christian, but what does it mean for a priest in particular? Discipleship; yet we can safely say: the priesthood can never be a means of achieving security in life or of acquiring a position in society. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood to enhance his own prestige and power has misunderstood the meaning of this ministry at its root. Anyone who wishes above all to achieve an ambition of his own, to attain success for himself will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be esteemed, he must flatter, he must say what people want to hear; he will have to adapt to changing fashions and opinions and will thus deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he had praised today. A man who plans his life in this manner, a priest who sees his ministry in these terms does not truly love God and others but only himself and, paradoxically, ends by losing himself. The priesthood let us always remember is based on having the courage to say "yes" to another will, in the awareness that we are growing every day, that precisely by conforming to God's will, by "immersing ourselves" in this will, not only will our own originality not be obliterated, but on the contrary, we will penetrate ever more deeply into the truth of our being and our ministry.
Dear Ordinands, I would like to propose for your reflection a third thought, closely linked to what I have just explained: Jesus' invitation to "lose [yourself]", to take up your cross, recalls the mystery we are celebrating: the Eucharist. Today, with the sacrament of Orders, you are granted to preside over the Eucharist! To you is entrusted the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, to you is entrusted his Body given and his Blood poured out. Of course, on the Cross Jesus offers his sacrifice, his gift of humble and total love to the Church his Bride. It is on that wood that the grain of wheat which the Father let fall on the field of the world dies in order to become a ripe fruit, a giver of life. However, in God's plan, Christ's gift of himself is made present in the Eucharist through that potestas sacra, which the sacrament of Orders confers upon you priests. When we celebrate Holy Mass we hold in our hands the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of God, which is Christ, the grain that breaks open in order to increase and to become the true food of life for the world. It is something that cannot but fill you with deep wonder, lively joy and immense gratitude: love and the gift of the Crucified and Glorious Christ now pass through your hands, your voice, your heart! It is an ever new experience of wonder to see that the Lord brings about this mystery of his Presence in my hands, in my voice!
So how can we fail to pray the Lord to give you an ever alert and enthusiastic awareness of this gift which is placed at the centre of your being as priests! And to give you the grace of being able to experience in depth the whole beauty and power of this presbyteral service of yours and, at the same time, the grace of being able to live this ministry with consistency and generosity, every day.
Dear friends, the path that today's Gospel points out to us is the path of your spirituality and of your pastoral action, of its efficacy and effectiveness, even in the most demanding and arid situations. Furthermore, this is the reliable way to finding true joy. May Mary, the Servant of the Lord who conformed her will to that of God, who brought forth Christ, giving him to the world, who followed the Son even to the foot of the Cross in the supreme act of love, accompany you every day of your life and of your ministry. Thanks to the affection of this tender and strong Mother, you will be able to be joyously faithful to the orders that as priests are being conferred on you today: to conform yourselves to Christ the Priest, who was able to obey the Father's will and to love man to the very end.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
24 June 2013
29 June 2013
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel resound some of Jesus’ most incisive words: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:24).
And then there are many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, who “lose their lives” for truth. And Christ said “I am the truth”, therefore whoever serves the truth serves Christ. One of those who gave his life for the truth is John the Baptist: tomorrow, 24 June, is his great feast, the Solemnity of his birth. John was chosen by God to prepare the way for Jesus, and he revealed him to the people of Israel as the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29). John consecrated himself entirely to God and to his envoy, Jesus. But, in the end, what happened? He died for the sake of the truth, when he denounced the adultery of King Herod and Herodias. How many people pay dearly for their commitment to truth! Upright people who are not afraid to go against the current! How many just men prefer to go against the current, so as not to deny the voice of conscience, the voice of truth! And we, we must not be afraid! Among you are many young people. To you young people I say: Do not be afraid to go against the current, when they want to rob us of hope, when they propose rotten values, values like food gone bad — and when food has gone bad, it harms us; these values harm us. We must go against the current! And you young people, are the first: Go against the tide and have the daring to move precisely against the current. Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so.
Dear friends, let us welcome Jesus’s words with joy. They are a rule of life proposed to everyone. And may St John the Baptist help us put that rule into practice. On this path, as always, our Mother, Mary Most Holy, precedes us: she lost her life for Jesus, at the Cross, and received it in fullness, with all the light and the beauty of the Resurrection. May Mary help us to make ever more our own the logic of the Gospel.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, remember this well: Do not be afraid to go against the current! Be courageous! And like this, just as we do not want to eat food that has gone bad, we will not carry with us rotten values, that ruin life and take away our hope. Forward!
I greet you all with affection: the families, parish groups, associations and schools. I greet alumni of the Diocesan school of Vipàva, Slovenia; the Polish community of Ascoli Piceno; UNITALSI of Ischia di Castro; the boys of the Oratory of Urgnano — I see their flag here, well done, you are very good! — the faithful of Pordenone; the Sisters and workers of the hospital “Miulli”, Acquaviva delle Fonti; a group of trade union delegates from Venice.
I wish you all a good Sunday! Pray for me and have a good lunch!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Francis I, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
This is a synthesis of Christ’s message, and it is expressed very effectively in a paradox, which shows us his way of speaking, almost lets us hear his voice.... But what does it mean “to lose one’s life for the sake of Jesus”? This can happen in two ways: explicitly by confessing the faith, or implicitly by defending the truth. Martyrs are the greatest example of losing one’s life for Christ. In 2,000 years, a vast host of men and women have sacrificed their lives to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. And today, in many parts of the world, there are many, many — more than in the first centuries — so many martyrs, who give up their lives for Christ, who are brought to death because they do not deny Jesus Christ. This is our Church. Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries! However, there is also daily martyrdom, which may not entail death but is still a “loss of life” for Christ, by doing one’s duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus, the logic of gift, of sacrifice. Let us think: how many dads and moms every day put their faith into practice by offering up their own lives in a concrete way for the good of the family! Think about this! How many priests, brothers and sisters carry out their service generously for the Kingdom of God! How many young people renounce their own interests in order to dedicate themselves to children, the disabled, the elderly.... They are martyrs too! Daily martyrs, martyrs of everyday life!