S. John Paul II Homil. 79
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Alleluia! Alleluia! On this third Sunday of Easter, our paschal joy is expressed as an echo of the overflowing joy of the Apostles who, from the first day, recognized the Risen Christ. On Easter evening, "Jesus himself stood among them". "See my hands and my feet". He invited them to touch him with their hands. And he ate before their eyes (cf. Lk Lc 24,36, 39, 40). Amazed and slow to believe, the Apostles recognized him at last: "The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (Jn 20,20 Lc 24,41); and now no one could take their joy from them (cf. Jn Jn 16,22), or silence their testimony (cf. Acts Ac 4,20). A few moments earlier, the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus were also burning within them while Jesus spoke to them on the way and explained the Scriptures to them; and they too had recognized him at the breaking of bread (cf. Lk Lc 24,32).
The joy of these witnesses is ours, dear Brothers and Sisters, we who share their faith in the Risen Christ. Glorified at the Father's side, he never stops drawing men to him, communicating to them his life, the Spirit of holiness, while preparing a place for them in the Father's house. Today, as it happens, this joy finds a striking confirmation, since we are honouring two admirable Servants of God who, last century, shone forth on our earth with Christ's holiness and whom the Church is now able to declare blessed, to propose them to the special veneration and imitation of the faithful: Father Laval and Father Coll, whom we must now contemplate
2. It is plainly impossible to point out here all the outstanding events in the life of Father Jacques-Désiré Laval, or all the Christian virtues that he practised to a heroic degree. Let us remember at least what characterizes this missionary, with regard to the mission of the Church today.
It is in the first place his concern to evangelize the poor, the poorest, and, in this case, his "dear Blacks" of the island of Mauritius, as he used to call them. A Frenchman, he had begun by practising medicine in a little town in his native diocese, Evreux, but gradually the call to an undivided love of the Lord, which he had repressed for a certain time, made him abandon his profession and worldly life. "Once I am a priest, I will be able to do more good", he explained to his brother (cf. biography).
80 A late vocation at St Sulpice Seminary in Paris, he was at once put in charge of service of the poor; then, as parish priest of the little Norman parish of Pinterville, he shared all he had with those in want. But on learning of the misery of the Blacks of Africa and the urgency of bringing them to Christ, he obtained permission to leave for the island of Mauritius, with the Vicar Apostolic, Mons. Collier. For twenty-three years, until his death, he dedicated all his time, used all his strength, and gave his whole heart to the evangelization of the inhabitants: indefatigably, he listened to them, catechized them, and made them discover their Christian vocation. He often intervened also to improve their medical and social condition.
His tenaciousness is an unending source of astonishment for us, especially in the discouraging conditions of his mission. But, in his apostolate, he always went to what is essential.
The fact is that our missionary left behind him innumerable converts, with a firm faith and piety. He was not given to sensational ceremonies, fascinating for these simple souls but with no lasting effect, or to flights of oratory. His educational concern was closely integrated in life. He was not afraid to return continually to the essential points of Christian doctrine and practice, and he admitted to baptism or to first communion only people prepared in little groups and tested. He took great care to put at the disposal of the faithful little chapels scattered over the island. Another remarkable initiative which links up with the concern of many pastors today: he had recourse to collaborators, men and women, as leaders of prayer, catechists, people who visited and advised the sick, others in charge of little Christian communities, in other words poor people, evangelizers of the poor.
What is, then, the secret of his missionary zeal? We find it in his holiness: in the gift of his whole person to Jesus Christ, inseparable from his tender love of men, especially the most humble among them, to whom he wishes to give access to the salvation of Christ. Whatever time was not dedicated to the direct apostolate, he spent in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, and he continually combined acts of penance which deeply impressed his confreres, in spite of his discretion and his humility.
He himself often expresses regret for his spiritual lukewarmness—let us say rather the feeling of his aridity: is it not precisely that he sets the greatest store by fervent love of God and Mary, to which he wishes to initiate his faithful? That is also the secret of his apostolic patience: "It is on God alone and on the protection of the Blessed Virgin that we depend" (Letter of 6 July 1853, cf. biography). What a magnificent confession! His missionary spirituality had been, from the beginning, in keeping with the general pattern of a young Religious and Marian Institute, and he was always anxious to follow its spiritual requirements, in spite of his solitude and geographical distance: the Society of the Sacred Heart of Mary, of which he was one of the first members alongside the famous Father Libermann, and which was soon to merge with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. The apostle, now as in the past, must in the first place maintain spiritual vigour within himself: he bears witness that he is continually drawing from the Source.
That is a model for evangelizers today. May he inspire missionaries and, I venture to say, all priests, who have in the first place the sublime mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ and training the Christian life!
May he be, in a special way, the joy and stimulus of all religious of the Holy Spirit, who have never stopped implanting the Church, particularly in the land of Africa, and are at work there so generously!
May the example of Father Laval encourage all of those who, in the African continent and elsewhere, are endeavouring to build a brotherly world, free of racial prejudices! May Blessed Laval be also the pride, the ideal and the protector of the Christian community of the island of Mauritius, so dynamic today, and of all Mauritians!
To these wishes, I am happy to add a very cordial greeting to the Delegation of the Government of Mauritius, as well as to that of the French Government, which have come to take part in this ceremony.
3. A second reason for ecclesial joy is the beatification of another figure that the Church wishes to exalt today and propose to the imitation of the People of God: Father Francis Coll. A new glory of the great Dominican family and equally so, of the diocesan family of Vich. A religious and at the same time a model apostle—for a large part of his life—in the ranks of the clergy of Vich.
He is one of those ecclesial personalities who, in the second half of the nineteenth century enrich the Church with new religious foundations: a son of Spain, of Catalonia, which has produced so many generous souls that have bequeathed a fruitful heritage to the Church.
81 In our case, this heritage takes on concrete form in a magnificent and tireless work of evangelical preaching, which culminates in the foundation of the Institute known today as that of the Dominican Sisters of "La Anunciata", present here in large numbers to celebrate their Father Founder, together with so many members of the various organizations which the Congregation has created.
We cannot now present a complete portrait of the new Blessed, an admirable mirror—as you have been able to observe from a reading of his biography—of heroic human, Christian and religious virtues, which make him worthy of praise and of imitation in our earthly pilgrimage. Let us merely speak briefly about one of the most striking aspects of this ecclesial figure.
What impresses us most on approaching the life of the new Blessed, is his evangelizing zeal. At a very difficult moment of history, in which social upheavals and laws persecuting the Church make him leave his convent and live permanently outside it, Father Coll, abstracting from human, sociological or political considerations, dedicates himself completely to an astonishing task of preaching. Both during his parish ministry, especially in Artés y Moya, and in his later phase as an apostolic missionary, Father Coll shows himself to be a true catechist, an evangelizer, in the best line of the Order of Preachers.
In his innumerable apostolic journeys over the whole of Catalonia, through memorable popular missions and other forms of preaching, Father Coll—Mosén Coll, for many—is a transmitter of faith, a sower of hope, a preacher of love, peace and reconciliation among those whom passions, war and hatred keep divided. A real man of God, he lives fully his priestly and religious identity, made a source of inspiration in the whole of his task. To those who do not always understand the reasons for certain attitudes of his, he answers with a convinced "because I am a religious". This deep consciousness of himself is what directs his incessant labour.
An absorbing task, but which does not lack a solid foundation: frequent prayer, which is the driving power of his apostolic activity. On this point, the new Blessed speaks very eloquently. He himself is a man of prayer; he wishes to introduce the faithful along this way (it is enough to see what he says in two publications of his "La hermosa rosa" and "La escala del cielo"). It is the path he points out in the Rule to his daughters, with stirring words, which because of their relevance today I also make my own: "The life of Sisters must be a life of prayer... For this reason I urge you over and over again, beloved Sisters: do not abandon prayer".
The new Blessed , recommends various forms of prayer to sustain apostolic activity. But there is one that he prefers and which I have particular pleasure in mentioning and emphasizing: prayer while contemplating the mysteries of the rosary; that ladder to go up to heaven", composed of mental and vocal prayer which "are the two wings that Mary's Rosary offers Christian souls". A form of prayer which the Pope too practises assiduously and in which he calls upon all of you to join, particularly in the coming month of May, dedicated to the Virgin.
I conclude these reflections in Spanish with a greeting to the Authorities who have come for these celebrations in honour of Father Coll. I invite everyone to imitate his example of life, but especially the sons of St Dominic, the clergy and particularly you, Dominican Sisters of the "Anunciata", who have come from Spain, Europe, America and Africa, where your religious activity is carried on generously
4. The hope that I express this morning, in conclusion, is that today's double Beatification will serve to strengthen and promote commitment in the catechetical action of the whole Church. It is well known that the subject of the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held here in Rome in the autumn of 1977, was precisely that of catechesis. The Synod Fathers—of whom I too was one—tackled and studied this theme of prime importance for the life and action of the Church at all times. They stressed the urgency of giving catechesis definite priority over other initiatives, less essential even if, perhaps, more spectacular, because the absolutely original aspect of the Church's mission is carried out by means of it. A mission—they confirmed—which involves all members of the People of God, though in their different functions, and commits them to a continual search for adequate methods and means for a more and more effective transmission of the Message.
The thought of the Synod Fathers was addressed particularly to the young, of whose growing importance in the world of today they were well aware: for amid uncertainties and disorders, excesses and frustrations, the young represent the great force on which the fate of future humanity depends. The question that troubled the Synod Fathers is precisely this one: how to get this multitude of young people to have a living experience of Jesus Christ, and that not just in the dazzling encounter of a fleeting moment, but by means of a knowledge of his person and his message that becomes more complete and luminous every day? How to kindle in them the passion for the Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, and in which alone the human being can find full and satisfying self-fulfilment?
To answer this question is the most urgent task of the Church, today. It will depend on the generous commitment of all, if a testimony of the "message of this salvation" (Ac 13,26) can be offered to the new generations, a testimony capable of winning over the minds and hearts of the young, and of involving their will in those concrete choices, often costly ones, which the logic of the love of God and of one's neighbour demands. It will depend above all on the sincerity and the intensity with which families and communities are able to live their adherence to Christ, if the young are effectively reached by the teachings imparted to them at home, in school, in church.
Let us pray, therefore, the new Blesseds to be close to us with their intercession and to guide us to personal and deep experience of the Risen Christ, who will make our hearts also "burn within us", as the hearts of the two disciples burned on the way to Emmaus, while Jesus "talked to them on the road and opened to them the Scriptures" (cf. Lk Lc 24,32). In fact, only he who can say: "I know him"—and St John has warned us that anyone who does not live according to Christ's commandments cannot say this (cf. Second Reading)—only he who has reached an "existential" knowledge of him and of his Gospel, can offer others a credible, incisive and enthralling catechesis.
82 The lives of the two new Blesseds are an eloquent confirmation of this. May their example not be proposed to us in vain!
Dear brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear priests, men and women religious,
Dear sons and daughters of "ever faithful" Croatia!
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. Gal Ga 1,3). "With open arms I press you to me and welcome you with fatherly love" (Letter from Pope John VIII to the Croat people and clergy: Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum collectio, XVII, 126) here, on St Peter's Tomb, on the occasion of the significant anniversary of the Croats' profession of fidelity to the Holy See, which is at the same time the memory of the fatherly good will towards you of the Successors of St Peter.
There are many reasons that justify this common joy of ours, as my brother in the Episcopate, Archbishop Franjo Kuharic, said so well in his address.
Truly, in this meeting at St Peter's Tomb, there seems to be concentrated your whole history of over thirteen centuries, and especially the great events of the life of your Church since the time of the Baptism of your people, when it entered the bosom of the Roman Church which is "head and teacher of all Churches" (Letter from Pope John VIII to the Bishop of Nin, Theodosius: Mansi, l.c., XVII, 124). Do you remember "White Croatia", your land of origin, which is just where my native land is? I feel the presence of your beautiful and dear nation, of all your people inside and outside the frontiers of your country, of your old and new fidelities, your anxieties. Here is present the memory of your ancestors, your Christian princes and kings, your bishops and priests, your paleo-Croat liturgical language, your marvellous churches, and especially your Marian sanctuaries.
Meanwhile, today we recall especially the relations of Croatia with the Holy See, so clearly expressed in Pope John VIII's letters to Prince Branimiro, to the Croat clergy and people, and to Bishop Theodosius. This happened precisely eleven centuries ago. The events of that time filled with joy the heart of Peter's Successor, and they were decisive for the future history of the Croat people and of the Church, for your faith, culture, and political independence.
Having before my eyes the rich and centuries-old past of your people, it seems to me that I can stress the following three extraordinary aspects.
First: fidelity to Jesus Christ and to the Gospel; a fidelity to which your ancestors bore witness with the fervour and spirit of martyrs in the struggle throughout the centuries "for the noble Cross and golden freedom".
83 Second: the love and adherence of the Croats to the Roman Church, to St Peter's Chair. This Church was really, your Mother, at whose holy doctrine your ancestors quenched their thirst as at a clear spring" (Letter from Pope John VIII to the Croat prince Branimiro: Mansi, 1.c., XVII, 125).
Third: the love, the fidelity and the devotion of the Croats towards Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, whom you warmly invoke as "Queen of the Croats" and filially honour in your sanctuaries.
Today you also confirm this three-fold fidelity of yours as a "Great Vow" of faithfulness to Jesus, to the Church, and to the Mother of God—particularly after the jubilee solemnities at Marija Bistrica, Solin, and Biskupija. Be faithful, be constant, be proud of your Christian name!
While I raise my hands today to bless you who are present, the whole of your people and the whole of your land (ibidem), I beg the Lord to preserve your faith and I implore the Mother of God to be always and everywhere "your powerful advocate". I extend my blessing to your bishops, priests, men and women religious in order that, faithful to their own vocation, they may be an example to all, and not go astray (Letter from Pope John VIII to the Bishop of Nin, Theodosius: Mansi, 1.c. XVII, 124), but may announce the Gospel of Christ as a joyful message of salvation, truth, love and concord. I bless all of you present, your families, young and old, workers and intellectuals, and I beg you: remain faithful to God and to Peter, foster a good family spirit, respect life, bring up a more and more numerous youth and keep the noble tradition of family prayer. I address, above all, you, young faithful: know and love Jesus Christ, man's only Redeemer, and be proud of your Christian name.
I bless in a fatherly way also the many workers who have come from other lands. I am acquainted with the worries and difficulties of the workers, therefore I exhort you never to forget your faith, and to love your home, your Church, and your native land.
My dear Croats! I thank you for this meeting, for this expression of renewed fidelity. As Pope John VIII once did, today I too delight in your faith, your affection, and your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his Church.
The Pope loves you.
The Pope embraces you and welcomes you.
The Pope blesses you! Amen
Today, the first day of May, the Church shows us Christ, the Son of God, at the work bench in the house of Joseph of Galilee.
84 Venerating this exceptional workman, the carpenter of Nazareth, the Church wishes to unite spiritually with the whole world of work, highlighting the dignity of work, and particularly physical work, and wishes to commend to God all workers and the many problems that concern them. We, too, will do so during this Sacrifice of Holy Mass.
I am happy to be in your midst, dear Brothers and Sisters, in union of faith and prayer under the gaze of the Blessed Virgin of Divine Love. From this picturesque Sanctuary, which is the heart of the Marian devotion of the diocese of Rome and surroundings, she watches in a motherly way over all the faithful who entrust themselves to her protection and custody in their pilgrimage here below.
1. On this first day of the month of May, together with you all, I, too, wished to come on pilgrimage to this blessed place to kneel at the foot of the miraculous image, which for centuries has continually dispensed graces and spiritual comfort, and, in this way, to give a solemn beginning to the Marian month, which in popular piety finds extremely noble expressions of veneration and affection for our sweet Mother. May the Christian tradition of offering flowers, small acts of sacrifice and pious resolutions to the All Fair and All Holy Lady, find in this Sanctuary, which rises in the midst of the Roman countryside, rich in light and greenery, the ideal point of reference in this month dedicated to her. All the more so in that her image—in which she is represented sitting on a throne, with the Child Jesus in her arms, and with the dove descending upon her as a symbol of the Holy Spirit who is precisely Divine Love—recalls to our minds the sweet and pure ties that unite the Virgin Mary with the Holy Spirit and with the Lord Jesus, a flower that blossomed from her womb, in the work of our redemption: a marvellous picture already contemplated, in a lyrical invocation, by the greatest Italian poet, when he makes St Bernard exclaim:
"In thy womb was lit again the love / under whose warmth in the eternal peace / this flower has thus unfolded" (Paradiso, XXXIII, 7-9).
2. In this spiritual atmosphere of Marian piety, on next Sunday is celebrated the day of prayer for ecclesiastical vocations, whether priestly or simply religious. The Church gives great importance to this day, at a moment when the problem of vocations is at the centre of the deepest concerns and cares of the ecclesial apostolate. Kindly put this intention in your prayers during the whole month of May. Today, more than ever, the world needs priests and religious, Sisters, consecrated souls to meet the immense needs of men. There are children and young people who are waiting for some one to teach them the way to salvation; there are men and women, whose heavy daily work makes them feel more acutely the need of God; there are old, sick and suffering people, who are waiting for some one to bend over their tribulations and open up to them the hope of Heaven. It is a duty of the Christian people to ask God, through the intercession of Our Lady, to send workers to his harvest (cf. Mt Mt 9,38), by making very many young people listen to his voice stimulating their consciences to supernatural values and making them understand and evaluate, in all its beauty, the gift of this call.
3. But in addition to beginning the month of May, I have come as the Bishop of Rome to visit the parish centre, which, in the shadow of the Sanctuary, carries on its pastoral activity in the midst of the surrounding people under the directives of Cardinal Poletti, my Vicar General, the Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Riva, and with the help of the zealous Parish Priest, Don Silla the assistant parish priests, and the Sisters, Daughters of Our Lady of Divine Love.
Dear Priests, I know your zeal and the difficulties you meet with in apostolic work owing to the distance and the isolation of the outlying suburbs and dwellings entrusted to your pastoral care. But be intrepid in the faith and in faithfulness to your ministry so as to develop more and more among souls the sense of the parish as a community of true believers; so as to promote the family apostolate, so that a house or groups of houses may become a place of evangelization, catechesis, and human advancement; and so as to dedicate due attention to the children and young people who represent the future of the Church. In this effort of yours, I express to you my encouragement and I exhort you "in the midst of the People of God which looks to Mary with immense love and hope" to have recourse in difficulties "to her with exceptional hope and love. Indeed, you must proclaim Christ who is her Son: and who will communicate to you the truth about him better than his Mother? You must nourish human hearts with Christ: and who can make you more aware of what you are doing than she who nourished him?" (cf. Letter to Priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday, n. 11).
4. I have already spoken of the attention this parish dedicates to children. Well, just to the youngsters who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, I wish to address a word of sincere affection and satisfaction at the preparation that they have made to receive in a worthy way the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost he was sent upon the Apostles that, in the midst of men, they should be fearless witnesses to Christ and courageous messengers of the Good News. Dear boys and girls, with the Sacrament of Confirmation you will receive the virtue of fortitude, so that you will not have to retreat before the obstacles on the path of your Christian life. Remember that the laying on of hands and the sign of the cross with the holy chrism will conform you more perfectly to Christ and give you the grace and the mandate to spread his "fragrance" among men (2Co 2,15).
5. And now, while we prepare to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice, in which we greet on the altar the "true body born of the Virgin Mary", we cannot but hear in our mind the sweet expressions of the Liturgy of the Word, which exalted Mary as the "Bride adorned for her husband" (cf. Rev Ap 21,15), the "Woman" of whom the Son of God was born (cf. Gal Ga 4,47) and, finally, the Mother of the "Son of the Most High" (cf. Lk Lc 1,26-38). As you see, the Blessed Virgin is bound to Jesus; she is for Jesus; she is the Mother of Jesus; she brings Jesus into the world: she is therefore at the peak of the destiny of mankind. It is she who, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, that is, of the Divine Love, by her divine motherhood makes Christ our brother; and, as she is the Mother of Christ in the flesh, so she is, by spiritual solidarity, the Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, which we all are: she is the Mother of the Church. Therefore while the sacrifice of praise rises to the Heavenly Father, let us, as devoted sons before her Sanctuary, raise a prayer that springs from our hearts to our sweet Mother.
Hail, oh Mother, Queen of the world. / You are the Mother of fair Love / You are the Mother of Jesus, the source of all grace, / the perfume of every virtue, / the mirror of all purity. / You are joy in weeping, victory in battle, hope in death. / How sweet your name tastes in our mouth, / how harmoniously it rings in our ears, / what rapture it brings to our hearts! You are the happiness of the suffering, / the crown of martyrs, / the beauty of virgins. / We beg you, guide us after this exile / to possession of your Son, Jesus.
85 Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
Today, in the whole of the Catholic Church, the Day for priestly and religious Vocations is being observed. I am happy to keep it with you, here in Rome, in the centre of Christianity, and in your parish entrusted to the priests of the Congregation of "Rogationists", whom I greet cordially.
This Sunday has been dedicated to this supreme and essential need precisely because the Liturgy presents to us the figure of Jesus, the "Good Shepherd".
The Old Testament already usually speaks of God as the Shepherd of Israel, the people of the covenant, chosen by him to carry out the plan of salvation. Psalm 22 is a marvellous hymn to the Lord, the Shepherd of our soul:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; / he makes me lie down in green pastures, / he leads me beside still waters, / he restores my soul. / He leads me in paths of righteousness... / Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil; / for thou art with me..." (Ps 22,1-3).
The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel often return to the subject of the people as "the Lord's flock": "Behold your God!... He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms..." (Is 40,11). Above all, they announce the Messiah as a Shepherd who will really feed his sheep and not let them go astray any more: "I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd..." (Ez 34,23).
This sweet and moving figure of the shepherd is a familiar one in the Gospel. Even if times have changed owing to industrialization and urbanism, it always keeps its fascination and effectiveness; and we all remember the touching and poetic parable of the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep (Lc 15,3-7).
In the early times of the Church, Christian iconography used a great deal and developed this subject of the Good Shepherd, whose image often appears, painted or sculpted, in the catacombs, sarcophagi and baptismal fonts. This iconography, so interesting and reverent, testifies to us that, right from the early times of the Church, Jesus "the Good Shepherd" struck and moved the hearts of believers and non-believers, and was a cause of conversion, spiritual commitment and comfort. Well, Jesus "the Good Shepherd" is still alive and true today in our midst, in the midst of the whole of mankind, and he wants to let each of us hear his voice and feel his love.
1) What does it mean to be the Good Shepherd?
Jesus explains it to us with convincing clearness.
— The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him. How wonderful and consoling it is to know that Jesus knows us one by one; that for him we are not anonymous persons; that our name—that name which is agreed upon by loving parents and friends—is known to him! For Jesus we are not a "mass", a "multitude"! We are individual "persons" with an eternal value, both as creatures and as re-deemed persons! He knows us! He knows me, and loves me and gave himself for me! (Ga 2,20);
86 — The shepherd feeds his sheep and leads them to fresh and abundant pastures. Jesus came to bring life to souls, and to give it in superabundance. And the life of souls consists essentially in three supreme realities: truth, grace, glory. Jesus is the truth, because he is the Word incarnate. He is the "head of the corner", as St Peter said to the rulers of the people and elders, the stone on which alone it is possible to construct the family, social, and political edifice: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Ac 4,11-12).
Jesus gives us "grace", that is divine life, by means of Baptism and the other sacraments. Through `"grace", we become participants in the very trinitarian nature of God! An immense mystery, but of inexpressible joy and consolation!
Jesus, finally, will give us the glory of Paradise, complete and eternal glory, where we will be loved and will love, participants in God's own happiness which is Infinite even in joy! "It does not yet appear what we shall be", St John comments, "but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1Jn 33,3).
— The shepherd defends his sheep; he is not like the mercenary who flees when the wolf arrives, because he does not care about the sheep at all. Unfortunately we know very well that there are still mercenaries in the world who sow hatred, malice, doubt, confusion of ideas and of the senses. Jesus, on the contrary, with the light of his divine word and with the strength of his sacramental and ecclesial presence, forms our mind, strengthens the will, purifies sentiments, and thus defends and saves from so many painful and dramatic experiences.
— The shepherd even offers his life for his sheep. Jesus realized the project of divine love by means of his death on the cross! He offered himself on the cross to redeem man, every individual man, created by love for the eternity of Love!
— Finally, the shepherd feels the desire to increase his flock. Jesus clearly affirms his universal concern: "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10,16). Jesus wants all men to know him, love him and follow him.
2) Jesus wanted the priest in the Church as the "Good Shepherd".
The parish is the Christian community, enlightened by the example of the Good Shepherd, around its own Parish Priest and priest collaborators.
In the parish the priest continues the mission and the task of Jesus; therefore he must "feed the flock", he must teach, instruct, give grace, defend souls from error and evil, console, help, convert and, above all, love.
Therefore, with all the anxiety of my heart as Pastor of the universal Church I say to you: love your priests! Esteem them, listen to them, follow them! Pray for them every day. Do not leave them alone either at the altar or in daily life!
And never stop praying for priestly vocations and for perseverance in the commitment of consecration to the Lord and to souls. But, above all, create in your families an atmosphere suitable for the flourishing of vocations. And, you parents, be generous in responding to God's plans for your children.
87 3) Finally, Jesus wants everyone to be a "good shepherd".
Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is called to be himself a "good shepherd" in the environment in which he lives. You parents must exercise the functions of the Good Shepherd with regard to your children; and you, too, children, must be edifying with your love, your obedience and above all with your courageous and consistent faith. Also the mutual relations between husband and wife must be marked by the example of the Good Shepherd, in order that family life may always have that nobility of sentiments and ideals willed by the Creator, because of which the family has been defined the "domestic Church". So also at school, at work, in playgrounds and places of leisure, in hospitals and where people are suffering, let everyone always try to be a "good shepherd" like Jesus. But above all let persons consecrated to God, Religious, Sisters, those who belong to the Secular Institutes, be "good shepherds" in society. Today and always we must pray for all religious vocations, male and female, in order that this testimony of religious life in the Church may be more and more numerous, alive, intense, and always efficacious. Today more than ever the world needs convinced witnesses who are completely consecrated!
Beloved Faithful, I conclude by recalling the heartfelt invocation of Jesus the Good Shepherd: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9,37 Lc 10,2).
If only my pastoral visit would bring forth in your parish some priestly vocations among you, young men and boys, innocent and devoted; some religious and missionary vocations among you, young women and girls, blossoming to life, full of enthusiasm!
Let us commend the desire to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus the Good Shepherd, our Mother and the inspirer of every sacred vocation!
Let us also invoke the intercession of the Servant of God, Canon Annibale of France, founder of the Congregation of "Rogationists" which, with its vocational centre "Rogate", dedicates its activity mainly to the promotion of priestly and religious vocations.
S. John Paul II Homil. 79