Benedict XVI Homilies 19611
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Feast of Corpus Christi is inseparable from Holy Thursday, from the Mass in Caena Domini, in which the Institution of the Eucharist is solemnly celebrated. Whereas on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and the wine poured out, today, on the day of Corpus Christi, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of the People of God, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of the cities and villages, to show that the Risen Christ walks in our midst and guides us towards the Kingdom of Heaven.
What Jesus gave to us in the intimacy of the Upper Room today we express openly, because the love of Christ is not reserved for a few but is destined for all. In the Mass in Caena Domini last Holy Thursday, I stressed that it is in the Eucharist that the transformation of the gifts of this earth takes place — the bread and wine — whose aim is to transform our life and thereby to inaugurate the transformation of the world. This evening I would like to focus on this perspective.
Everything begins, one might say, from the heart of Christ who, at the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and by so doing, with the power of his love, transformed the meaning of death which he was on his way to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the Altar acquired the name “Eucharist” — “thanksgiving” — expresses precisely this: that changing the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, the gift of a Love stronger than death, divine Love which raised him from the dead. This is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of Life. From Christ’s heart, from his “Eucharistic prayer” on the eve of his passion flows that dynamism which transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All things proceed from God, from the omnipotence of his Triune Love, incarnate in Jesus. Christ’s heart is steeped in this Love; therefore he can thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and in this way changes things, people and the world.
This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word “communion”, which we also use to designate the Eucharist, in itself sums up the vertical and horizontal dimensions of Christ’s gift.
The words “to receive communion”, referring to the act of eating the Bread of the Eucharist, are beautiful and very eloquent. In fact, when we do this act we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, into the dynamism of this life which is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted through the Blessed Eucharist.
We have just heard in the Second Reading the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Co 10,16-17).
St Augustine helps us to understand the dynamic of Eucharistic communion when he mentions a sort of vision that he had, in which Jesus said to him: “I am the food of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh into yourself, but you shall be changed into my likeness” (Confessions, vii, 10, 18).
Therefore whereas food for the body is assimilated by our organism and contributes to nourishing it, in the case of the Eucharist it is a different Bread: it is not we who assimilate it but it assimilates us in itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ, a member of his Body, one with him. This passage is crucial. In fact, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion changes us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened, liberated from its egocentrism and inserted into the Person of Jesus who in his turn is immersed in Trinitarian communion. The Eucharist, therefore, while it unites us to Christ also opens us to others, makes us members of one another: we are no longer divided but one in him. Eucharistic communion not only unites me to the person I have beside me and with whom I may not even be on good terms, but also to our distant brethren in every part of the world.
Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred Host, recognize him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
Therefore our special responsibility as Christians for building a supportive, just and brotherly society comes from the gift of Christ’s love. Especially in our time, in which globalization makes us more and more dependent on each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity is not built without God, that is, without true Love, which would give way to confusion, individualism and the tyranny of each one seeking to oppress the others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity that is neither imposed from the outside nor by ideological or economic interests but on the contrary is based on the sense of reciprocal responsibility, so that we may recognize each other as members of one and the same Body, the Body of Christ, because from the Sacrament of the Altar we have learned and are constantly learning that sharing, love, is the path to true justice.
Let us now return to Jesus’ action at the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: “this is my body which is given for you, this is the cup of my blood which is poured out for many, what happened? In this gesture Jesus was anticipating the event of Calvary. Out of love he accepted the whole passion, with its anguish and its violence, even to death on the cross. In accepting it in this manner he changed it into an act of giving. This is the transformation which the world needs most, to redeem it from within, to open it to the dimensions of the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, God always wishes to bring about this renewal of the world on the same path followed by Christ, that way which is indeed he himself. There is nothing magic about Christianity. There are no short-cuts; everything passes through the humble and patient logic of the grain of wheat that broke open to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. For this reason God wishes to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and his Blood are really present, Christ transforms us, conforming us to him: he involves us in his work of redemption, enabling us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live in accordance with his own logic of self-giving, as grains of wheat united to him and in him. Thus are sown and continue to mature in the furrows of history unity and peace, which are the end for which we strive, in accordance with God’s plan.
Let us walk with no illusions, with no utopian ideologies, on the highways of the world bearing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humility of knowing that we are merely grains of wheat, let us preserve the firm certainty that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God prepares for all men and women new heavens and a new earth, in which peace and justice reign — and in faith we perceive the new world which is our true homeland.
This evening too, let us start out: while the sun is setting on our beloved city of Rome: Jesus in the Eucharist is with us, the Risen One who said: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your faithfulness which sustains our hope. Stay with us because night is falling. “Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, Jesus, of your love befriend us, You refresh us, you defend us, Your eternal goodness send us in the land of life to see”. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos” - “I no longer call you servants, but friends” (cf. Jn 15,15).
Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice. According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. “No longer servants, but friends”: at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name (“I” forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: “No longer servants, but friends”. He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.
“No longer servants, but friends”: this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle – wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10,14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (cf. Jn 10,3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (cf. Jn 15,13 Jn 10,15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.
Jesus’ words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: “I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15,16). The first commission to the disciples, to his friends, is that of setting out – appointed to go out -, stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ...” (cf. Mt 28,19f.) The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that he himself can enter our world.
After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, day and night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.
Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God’s law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed – no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand – faithfulness to Christ and to his Church – seeks a fulfilment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone – a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H EV 1,6,6 PL 76, 1097f.).
Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today.
On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome’s patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, the confrères of my first Mass, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.
The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11,29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore “a sweet yoke”, but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb – humanity – me – upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors – it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.
Sixty years of priestly ministry – dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are gathered here, once again, to celebrate one of the oldest and best loved of the feasts dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the feast of her Assumption into the glory of Heaven in body and soul, in other words in the whole of her human existence, in the integrity of her person. Thus we have been given the grace of renewing our love for Mary, of admiring her and of praising her for the “great things” which the Almighty worked through her and brought about in her.
In contemplating the Virgin Mary we are granted another grace: the ability to see our own life too in depth. Yes, because our own daily existence, with its problems and hopes, receives light from the Mother of God, from her spiritual journey, from her destiny of glory: a journey and a destination that can and must become, in a certain way, our own journey and our own destination.
Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the passages of Sacred Scripture the liturgy proposes to us today. I would like to reflect in particular on an image we find in the First Reading from the Book of Revelation, which is in fact echoed by Luke’s Gospel: the ark.
In the First Reading we heard: “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of his Covenant was seen within his temple” (Ap 11,19). What is the meaning of the ark? What appears?
For the Old Testament, it is the symbol of God’s presence in the midst of his people. However, the symbol has given way to reality. Thus the New Testament tells us that the true ark of the covenant is a living, real person: it is the Virgin Mary. God does not dwell in a piece of furniture, he dwells in a person, in a heart: Mary, the One who carried in her womb the eternal Son of God made man, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
In the ark — as we know — the two Tables of the Mosaic Law were kept. The Law expressed God’s wish to preserve the Covenant with his People, pointing out the conditions for being faithful to the pact with God in order to conform to God’s will and thereby also to our own profound truth.
Mary is the Ark of the Covenant because she welcomed Jesus within her; she welcomed within her the living Word, the whole content of God's will, of God’s truth; she welcomed within her the One who is the new and eternal Covenant, which culminated in the offering of his Body and his Blood: a body and blood received through Mary.
Therefore Christian piety rightly turns to Our Lady in the litanies in her honour, invoking her as Foederis Arca, that is, “the Ark of the Covenant”, the Ark of God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant of love which God desired to establish with the whole of humanity, in Christ, once and for all.
The passage from the Book of Revelation also indicates another important aspect of Mary’s reality. As the living Ark of the Covenant, she has an extraordinary destiny of glory because she is so closely united to the Son whom she welcomed in faith and generated in the flesh, as to share fully in his glory in Heaven.
This is what the words we have heard suggest: “A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.... She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations” (Ap 12,1-2 Ap 12,5).
The greatness of Mary, Mother of God, full of grace, fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, already lives in God’s Heaven with her whole being, body and soul. St John Damascene, referring to this mystery in a famous homily, said: “Today the holy Virgin of Virgins is presented in the heavenly temple.... Today the sacred and living Ark of the living God [the Ark], who conceived her Creator himself, takes up her abode in the temple of God, not made by human hands” (Homily II on the Dormition, 2, PG 96, 723); and he continues: “It was meet that she, who had who had sheltered the divine Logos in her own womb, should inhabit the tabernacles of her Son.... The place of the Bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the nuptial chambers of Heaven” (ibid., 14 PG 96,742).
Today the Church praises God's immense love for his creature: he chose her as a true “Ark of the Covenant”, as the One who continues to generate and to give Christ the Saviour to humanity, as the One who in Heaven shares in the fullness of the glory and enjoys the very happiness of God and, at the same time, also invites us to become, in our modest way, an “ark” in which the Word of God is present, transformed and quickened by his presence, a place of the presence of God, so that men and women may find God’s closeness in the other person, and thus live in communion with God and know the reality of Heaven.
Luke’s Gospel which we have just heard (cf. Lc 1,39-56) shows us this living Ark — which is Mary — on the move: after leaving her home in Nazareth, Mary set out for the hill country, making haste to reach a city of Judah and go to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It seems to me important to emphasize the expression “with haste”: God’s things deserve haste, indeed, the only things in the world that deserve haste are precisely those of God, which are truly urgent for our life.
So Mary entered the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth but she did not enter it alone. She entered carrying in her womb the Son, who was God himself, made man. In that house she and her help were of course expected, but the Evangelist leads us to understand that this expectation pointed to another, deeper expection. Zechariah, Elizabeth and the little John the Baptist are in fact the symbol of all the just of Israel, whose hearts, full of hope, awaited the coming of the saving Messiah.
And it was the Holy Spirit who opened Elizabeth’s eyes and caused her to recognize Mary as the true Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God, who was coming to visit her. Thus her elderly kinswoman welcomed her exclaiming with “a loud cry”: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lc 1,42-43).
And it was the Holy Spirit himself who, before her, the One who was carrying God made man, opened the heart of John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth exclaimed: “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Lc 1,44).
Here the Evangelist Luke uses the term “skirtan”, that is “to leap”, the same term we find in one of the ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament to describe the dancing of King David in front of the ark of the Lord which had been brought into the city at last (2S 6,16).
In his mother’s womb John the Baptist danced like David before the Ark of the Covenant; like David he recognized: Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant, before which the heart exults with joy, the Mother of God present in the world who does not keep this divine presence to herself but offers it, sharing the grace of God. Thus, — the prayer says — Mary really is the “causa nostrae laetitae”, the “Ark” in whom the Saviour is truly present among us.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are speaking of Mary, but in a certain sense we are also speaking of ourselves, of each one of us: we too are recipients of that immense love which God reserved — of course, in an absolutely unique and unrepeatable way — for Mary. On this Solemnity of the Assumption let us look to Mary: She opens us to hope, to a future full of joy and teaches us the way to achieve it: welcoming in faith: by welcoming her Son with faith; by never losing the friendship with him but letting ourselves be illuminated and guided by his word; by following him every day, even in moments when we feel that our crosses are growing heavy.
Mary, Ark of the Covenant which is in the sanctuary of Heaven, show us with luminous clarity that we are on our way towards our true Home, the communion of joy and peace with God. Amen!
Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Rectors and Formators,
I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.
The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39,8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. He 10,14).
The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lc 22,14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.
Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.
How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.
Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.
To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Ph 3,12-14).
That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10,11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.
Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.
Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.
With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 19611