Torreciudad -- September 4, 2005
My dear brothers and sisters.
My dear deacon sons.
1. There is no doubt that St. Paul was speaking to all Christians when he told us: caritas Christi urget nos. “Christ’s love urges us on.” How often I heard St. Josemaría Escrivá use this expression! His concern for souls, for their salvation, weighed on him, and he was ready to give his life for them. In this, as in everything, he was following the example of Jesus, who exclaimed: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). In his heart he always savored the words of St. John: “Love one another!” (cf. 1 Jn 3:11).
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, from the first moments of his pontificate, has stressed the holy concern that all Christians must have in the face of a world ever more distant from God, at least in our European and Western civilization. It is enough to open one’s eyes to realize that many people—men and women, youth and adults—are separating themselves from our Lord or do not know him, perhaps because they haven’t had at their side Christians who showed them, by their consistent example and words, the lovable face of our Redeemer. This zeal for souls must be for us a true restlessness, always alive in our hearts. But it must be a holy restlessness, which doesn’t take away our peace, or degenerate into pessimistic commentaries or sterile laments. Rather it has to be shown in specific apostolic initiatives, renewed each day in our contact with Jesus in the Word and in the Bread, in the Eucharist and in prayer.
The “Year of the Eucharist” is coming to a close, having been convoked by the Servant of God, John Paul II. In the two months that still remain, we should make a determined effort to attend Mass with greater love, to frequently accompany Jesus in the Tabernacle, to receive Communion with greater fruitfulness. Without forgetting that one must make a good confession, with true repentance for faults and sins, with resolutions to struggle, as a necessary preparation for receiving Communion, if one has had the misfortune of committing a mortal sin. In any case, this constitutes the best disposition to receive the Holy Eucharist.
Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us that Communion “is truly an encounter between two persons, it is allowing our lives to be penetrated by the life of the One who is the Lord, of the One who is my Creator and Redeemer.” The same can be said of our contact with him outside of Mass: “Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist. His presence is not static. It is a dynamic presence that takes hold of us, to make us his own, to assimilate us to him. Christ draws us to himself, he makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with him. In this way he also integrates us in the communities of our brothers and sisters, and communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters.”
2. In the framework of the intimacy with Jesus that is forged in the Eucharist and in prayer, one understands in depth the words that the Master directs to us in the Gospel of today’s Mass: “You are the light of the world...You are the salt of the earth.” And also: “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” Our Lord seeks—he longs!—to enter into our hearts, and therefore he draws close to each of us. We will be light that illuminates mankind, salt that gives savor to social institutions, leaven in the mass of humanity, if our Christian life is firmly based on the frequent reception of the sacraments and on personal contact with our Lord, fleeing from anonymity. Then, as the Holy Father also says, “from this intimacy that is a most personal gift of the Lord, the strength of the Sacrament of the Eucharist goes above and beyond the walls of our Churches. In this Sacrament, the Lord is always journeying to meet the world.”
The task that we priests are called upon to carry out, in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, can be summed up as helping the faithful grow in intimacy with God. Only for this reason, so that all men and women may strive for sanctity (cf. Mt 5:40), are we granted the capacity to preach the word of God with authority, to make present on the altar the Sacrifice of the Cross, to administer grace through the other sacraments, to guide the people entrusted to us. In this way, identified sacramentally with Christ the Eternal High Priest, the sacred ministers—first of all the bishops, and the priests as their collaborators—become teachers and guides for the People of God.
Thanks to their priestly ministry, they fulfill to the letter in the Church the words of the responsorial Psalm: “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.” And each of the faithful can say with certainty that he is under God’s direct care: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
3. If Jesus invites every Christian to draw close to him, how much more does he do so with the apostles and those who are going to succeed them in their ministry: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” My deacon sons: being chosen for the priesthood by our Lord is a sign of his loving predilection for you. Let us all meditate on the marvelous reality that St. Josemaría emphasized: when a priest validly celebrates Holy Mass, with the intention of consecrating, our Lord never refuses to come down into his hands, even though they are unworthy. Could there be greater self-giving, greater emptying of himself? More than in Bethlehem and on Calvary. Why? Because Christ’s Heart is weighed down by his redemptive longing, because he does not want anyone to be able to say that they have not been called, because he goes out to meet those who do not seek him.
Although we are all unworthy (as we sincerely tell our Lord at Mass, Domine, non sum dignus…), Jesus makes himself present on the altar, forgives sins in confession and guides souls along the paths of eternal life, ordinarily through the priest. This obliges us in a special way to strive, within our limitations, to always walk closely united to Jesus. My sons, put great care into your norms of piety, always, but especially when you find yourselves fully immersed in ministerial tasks.
When time is short, because you have a lot of work, it is precisely then that you have to put a special effort into everything that refers to your personal spiritual life. Cura teipsum! (2 Tim 14:15), take care of yourself, I remind you in the words of St. Paul to Timothy. Always treat Jesus in the Eucharist with the greatest refinement. Be very devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Go to the intercession of St. Josemaría, our beloved Father, so that he help you to be priests to the measure of the Heart of Christ.
Before finishing, I congratulate with all my heart the families, relatives and friends of the new priests. We thank God for this manifestation of his Providence, which always accompanies his pilgrim people. At the same time, since the harvest is great but the laborers few (cf. Mt9:37), we beseech the Lord of the harvest to send more workers for his harvest, to grant to many men throughout the whole world a priestly vocation, and that those called may correspond with total generosity. I ask you also to pray for priests, that we be worthy ministers of our Lord: men of prayer, lovers of sacrifice, burning with zeal for the salvation of souls.
Let us pray above all for Pope Benedict XVI, who with such great dedication and docility to God has accepted the burden of the supreme Pontificate, so that our Lord will make him very holy and render effective his work in the service of the Church and all humanity. Pray also for the bishop of this diocese and for his seminary; for me, who am so in need of your prayers; and for all the bishops. Let us entrust our prayers to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Queen and Mother of each of us and of the whole Church, who here in Torreciudad we also invoke trustingly as Queen of the Angels. Amen.