At the ordination to the priesthood of deacons of the Prelature Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (May 22, 2004)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dearest Sons of mine who are about to be ordained priests,
1. Every time Holy Mass is celebrated, the mystery of Holy Thursday is put before the Christian people once again. The entire Church is summoned by our Lord to the Cenacle of Jerusalem where Jesus-before having offered the Sacrifice of the Cross-instituted the sensible and efficacious sign of that immolation: the most Holy Eucharist, the sacramental sacrifice of His Body and Blood. Then, by ordering the Apostles, Do this in memory of me (Lk 22:19), our Lord Himself instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders making it possible to fulfill that mandate till the end of time.
If the wonder of Holy Thursday is made present each time Holy Mass is celebrated, all the more is it made present in today's liturgy. Thirty-seven deacons of the Prelature of Opus Dei are to be ordained priests. The same Christ who called the first Twelve has now called them, and today He gathers them in the Cenacle in order to confer the priesthood upon them. In his last letter to priests, the Holy Father writes, «In that holy night, He called by name the priests of all time. His look, an affectionate and encouraging look, has fallen upon each one; it is the same look that gazed upon Simon and Andrew, James and John...»
Dear Deacon Sons of mine! The Lord Himself has called you through your Ordinary. You, in full freedom, have answered Adsum, «I am willing». After a careful doctrinal and pastoral preparation, the long awaited moment has arrived. From now on and for the rest of your lives, you will be transformed into ministers of Christ, visible instruments of the High Priest in order to perpetuate His Sacrifice on earth. You will not simply be entrusted the task of conducting sacred services; above all, rather, you will be transformed interiorly. As John Paul II recalls, priestly ordination «affects the realm of 'being'. It empowers the priest to act in persona Christi, and it culminates in the moment in which he consecrates the bread and the wine, while repeating the actions and words of Jesus in the Last Supper»
How could we not remain in awe and amazement before such reality? If, as Saint Josemaría wrote, the humility and love of Christ is something boundless—more than in the Stable, more than in Nazareth and more than on the Cross —«what should our attitude be like before the altar where Christ makes His Sacrifice present in time through the poor hands of the priest? There is room for no other attitude-I repeat to you in words of the Pope-except for one that leads us to kneel and adore in silence this great mystery of faith»
2. In instituting the Sacred Orders, our Lord provided the Church the necessary means in order to fulfill the mission that He entrusted to her. In effect, before ascending into Heaven, Jesus reminded His Apostles what had been prophesied regarding Himself: And so it is written that the Christ must suffer and resurrect from among the dead on the third day; and all people shall be preached in his name the conversion for the forgiveness of sins beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of all these things (Lk 24:46-48). If sacred ministers are lacking, the Church would not exist as Christ has wanted it. But it is also true that the ministerial priesthood is at the service of all the faithful and that in that service it finds its primary purpose.
In this way, through the organic cooperation of all her members-priests and laymen—, the Church is capable of accomplishing the mission she received: that of taking to the entire world, even to the remotest corner of the earth, the Redemption obtained by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Jesus has gone up to Heaven, but each Christian should speak and deal with Him through prayer and through the Eucharist in order to be strengthened and set on fire with His zeal for saving all souls. In this solemnity, and within the context of this most intimate ceremony, I would like to invite you to ask yourselves: how do I deal with Jesus? Do I truly strive to get to know Him better, to love Him more, to make Him known to others? Am I aware that through Baptism I have received the duty to bring all people I find along my path closer to God? With some heartfelt words of the Founder of Opus Dei, I would like to remind you that each one of us has to be ipse Christus ( Christ Himself). Our calling to be children of God, in the midst of the world, requires us not only to seek our own personal holiness, but also to go out onto all the ways of the earth, to convert them into roads that will carry souls over all obstacles and lead them to the Lord. As we take part in all temporal activities, as ordinary citizens, we are to become leaven (Cf. Mt 13:33) acting on the whole of the dough (Cf. 1 Cor 5:6)
3. A great task awaits us. A quick glance around us is enough to realize that the world is in dire need of the love of Christ. >From all around we can smell the stinking fruits of hatred, of violence, and of the ramming of men over one another. As Christians, we should always bear with us the sweet fragrance of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 2:15-16), sowing peace and joy. We will succeed if, with unbreakable trust in His goodness and power, we remain truly united to our Lord.
Perhaps at times, before the constant bad news that the media give us, the same question posed by the Apostles to Jesus before His Ascension comes to our lips: Lord, will you now restore the Kingdom of Israel? Lord, when will the moment come when all men and women open wide the doors of their hearts to You and Your kingdom be extended throughout the earth? Let us listen to the always relevant answer our Lord gives us: It does not concern you to know the times or moments that the Father has established with His Might; but you shall receive the power from the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and even to all the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).
My dearest Brothers and Sisters! The Spirit of the Lord is with us, within each one of us. We can be sure that Christ's victory has been declared and that it is now up to us to thrust it forward with our apostolic cooperation which should be humble and tenacious at the same time. I would like to bring to mind a few recently pronounced words addressed by the Holy Father to a group of young priests yet pertinent to all. John Paul II stated, «You are being ordained priests during a time in which ( ) strong cultural tendencies are trying to make all, especially young people and families, forget God. But do not be afraid! God will always be with you! With His help you shall be able to go through all the paths that lead to the heart of each person; you shall be able to proclaim to each of them that the Good Shepherd has given his life for him or for her and that He wishes for each of them to take part in the mystery of His love and salvation»
Let us carefully prepare ourselves for the upcoming Solemnity of Pentecost when the strength of the Paraclete shall come down upon our souls once again. I invite you to do it along with Mary by stepping inside the Cenacle of Jerusalem, the privileged place of the greatest marvels carried out by God in favor of humanity.
I would like to express my best wishes to the parents and to all the relatives of the new priests. Pray for them and for all sacred ministers: the Pope, whose 84 th birthday we have just celebrated a few days ago; for the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the Bishops and all priests around the world. May God bless you!