St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, on which the Liturgy presents to us Jesus as the Good Shepherd. On every continent Ecclesial Communities with one voice seek from the Lord numerous holy vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated and missionary life and to Christian marriage as they meditate on the theme: "Vocations at the service of the Church-mission". This year the World Day of Prayer for Vocations fits into the setting of the Pauline Year which will begin this 28 June to celebrate the bimillennium of the birth of the Apostle Paul, the missionary par excellence.
In the experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom the Lord called to be a "minister of the Gospel", vocation and mission are inseparable. He therefore represents a model for every Christian, particularly for missionaries ad vitam, in other words, those men and women who dedicate themselves totally to proclaiming Christ to those who still do not know him, a vocation which has retained its full value. This missionary service is carried out in the first place by priests who dispense the Word of God and the sacraments and who manifest the healing presence of Jesus Christ to all, especially the sick, the lowly and the poor through their charitable Apostolate. Let us thank God for these brothers of ours who spend themselves unreservedly in the pastoral ministry, sometimes sealing their fidelity to Christ with the sacrifice of their lives, as happened yesterday to two Religious killed respectively in Guinea and Kenya. Our grateful admiration and prayers of suffrage go to them. Let us pray that the ranks of those who decide to live the Gospel radically with the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience may be ever more numerous. They are men and women who have a primary role in evangelization. Some of them are dedicated to contemplation and prayer, others to a multi-faceted educational and charitable action, but they all have the same goal in common: to witness to God's primacy over everything and to spread his Kingdom in every social milieu. Many of them, the Servant of God Paul VI wrote, "are enterprising and their apostolate is often marked by an originality, by a genius that demands admiration. They are generous: often they are found at the outposts of the mission, and they take the greatest of risks for their health and their very lives" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 69). Finally, it should not be forgotten that the vocation to Christian marriage is a missionary vocation: indeed, the spouses are called to live the Gospel in families, in work contexts, in parish and in civil communities. In some cases they also offer their valuable collaboration to the mission ad gentes.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke Mary's motherly protection upon the multiple vocations that exist in the Church so that they may develop a strong missionary stamp. I also entrust to her, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, the special missionary experience which I shall be living in the next few days with my Apostolic Visit to the United States of America and my Visit to the United Nations Organization, while I ask you all to accompany me with your prayers.
After the Regina Caeli:
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. This Tuesday I leave Rome for my Visit to the United Nations Organization and the United States of America. With the various groups I shall meet, my intention is to share Our Lord's word of life. In Christ is our hope! Christ is the foundation of our hope for peace, for justice, and for the freedom that flows from God's law fulfilled in his commandment to love one another.
Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to pray for the success of my Visit, so that it may be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans. Upon each of you present, I invoke the protection and guidance of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
I wish you all a good Sunday!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter presents to us one of the most beautiful images that has portrayed the Lord Jesus since the earliest centuries of the Church: the Good Shepherd. The Gospel of St John, in chapter 10, describes the special features of the relationship between Christ the Good Shepherd and his flock, a relationship so close that no one will ever be able to snatch sheep from his hand. Indeed, the sheep are united to him by a bond of love and of reciprocal knowledge, which guarantees to them the immeasurable gift of eternal life.
At the same time, the flock’s attitude to the Good Shepherd, Christ, is presented by the Evangelist with two specific verbs: “to listen” and “to follow”. These terms suggest the fundamental characteristics of those who live out the following of the Lord.
First of all by listening to his word, from which faith is born and by which it is nurtured. Only those who are attentive to the Lord’s voice can assess in their own conscience the right decisions for acting in accordance with God. Thus the following of Jesus derives from listening: we act as disciples only after hearing and inwardly accepting the Master’s teachings in order to put them into practice every day.
On this Sunday, therefore, it comes naturally to remember to God the pastors of the Church and those who are training to become pastors. I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for the bishops – including the Bishop of Rome! – for the parish priests, for all those who have responsibilities in the guidance of Christ’s flock, so that they may be faithful and wise in carrying out their ministry. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so that effective workers in the Lord’s harvest may never be lacking.
Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations. My Predecessor’s felicitous insight was based on the conviction that vocations grow and mature in the particular Churches, facilitated by a healthy family background and fortified by a spirit of faith, charity and devotion.
In the Message I sent for this World Day, I stressed that a vocation is fulfilled when they “leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it” (dated 15 November 2010).
In these times too, in which the Lord’s voice risks being drowned by so many other voices, every ecclesial community is called to promote and to care for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. Men and women in fact always need God, also in our technological world, and there will always be a need for Pastors who proclaim his Word and bring them to encounter the Lord in the sacraments.
Dear brothers and sisters, strengthened by the joy of Easter and of faith in the Risen One, let us entrust our resolutions and intentions to the Virgin Mary, Mother of every vocation, so that with her intercession she may bring forth and sustain many holy vocations for the service of the Church and of the world.
After the Regina Caeli:
I continue to follow with great apprehension the tragic armed conflict in Libya, which has taken a heavy toll of victims and caused great suffering, especially among the civil population. I renew my pressing appeal to turn to negotiation and dialogue, so that it may prevail over violence, with the help of the international organizations that are doing their utmost to find a solution to the crisis. I also assure my prayerful and moved participation in the commitment with which the local Church helps the people, especially through the consecrated people present in the hospitals.
My thoughts also turn to Syria where there is an urgent need to re-establish coexistence marked by harmony and unity. I ask God to spare this country of great religions and civilization any further bloodshed and I invite the Authorities and all the citizens to spare no effort in the search for the common good and in the acceptance of legitimate aspirations to a future of peace and stability.
Dear brothers and sisters, as you know, the Beatification of Pope John Paul II has had a global resonance. There are other exemplary witnesses of Christ, far less well known, whom the Church points out with joy for the veneration of the faithful. Today, in Würzburg, Germany, Bl. Georg Häfner was beatified, a diocesan priest who died as a martyr in the concentration camp of Dachau; and on last Saturday, 7 May, another priest, Giustino Maria Russolillo, Founder of the Society for Divine Vocations, was beatified in Pozzuoli. Let us thank the Lord for not letting his Church go without holy priests!
I greet with joy the English-speaking visitors gathered here today, and I pray that your pilgrimage to Rome will strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord Jesus. Today we pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, asking Christ our Lord to send shepherds to care for his flock, so that God’s people may have life in abundance. Upon all of you I invoke the peace and joy of the Risen Lord! I wish you all a good Sunday, a good Sunday. Thank you for for coming.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
These our sons and brothers have been called to the dignity of the Priesthood. As you well know, the Lord Jesus is the one and only Great High Priest of the New Testament; but in him, God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood. Nevertheless, among his disciples, the Lord Jesus wills to choose certain ones to carry out a priestly office publicly in the Church, in his name and on behalf of mankind, in order that they may continue his personal mission as Teacher, Priest and Shepherd.
After mature deliberation, we are about to elevate these, our brothers, to the Order of the Presbyterate, so that in service to Christ the Teacher, Priest and Shepherd, they may cooperate in building up the Body of Christ, which is the Church, into the People of God, a holy temple of the Spirit.
Indeed, in being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest, and joined to the priesthood of their Bishop, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, to preside at worship, and especially to celebrate the Lord’s Sacrifice.
For your part, most beloved brothers and sons, who are about to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood, consider that in exercising the ministry of sacred doctrine you will share in the mission of Christ, the one Teacher. Impart to everyone the Word which you have received from your mothers, from your catechists. Diligently read and meditate on the Word of the Lord that you may believe what you read, teach what you have learned in faith, and practice what you teach. May the People of God be nourished by your teaching, which is not your own: you are not masters of doctrine! It is the Lord’s doctrine, and you must be faithful to the doctrine of the Lord!
In this way, may what you teach be nourishment for the People of God. Let the delightful fragrance of your life be a joy and support to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up God’s house which is the Church.
Likewise you will continue the sanctifying work of Christ. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the Sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands on behalf of the whole Church in an unbloody manner on the altar, in the celebration of the sacred mysteries.
Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate so that, participating in the Mystery of the Lord’s death and Resurrection, you may bear the death of Christ in your members and walk with him in newness of life.
Through Baptism you gather new faithful into the People of God; through the Sacrament of Penance you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. And here I want to pause to ask you, for the love of Jesus Christ: never tire of being merciful! Please! Have the ability to forgive that the Lord had, who came not to condemn but to forgive! Be greatly merciful! And if you have scruples about being too “forgiving”, think of that holy priest about whom I have told you, who went before the Tabernacle and said: “Lord, pardon me if I have forgiven too much, but it is you who have set me a bad example!”. And I tell you, truly: it grieves me when I come across people who no longer confess because they have been beaten and scolded. They have felt as though the church doors were being closed in their faces! Please, do not do this: mercy, mercy! The Good Shepherd enters through the door, and the doors of mercy are the wounds of the Lord: if you do not enter into your ministry through the Lord’s wounds, you will not be good shepherds.
With Chrism oil you will comfort the sick; in celebrating the sacred rites and raising up the prayer of praise and supplication at various hours of the day, you will become the voice of the People of God and of all humanity.
Continue next page ….
18 May 2014