From the Prelate - At the Priestly Ordination of Deacons of the Prelature, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome (April 23, 2016)
My dear ordinands,
Dear brothers and sisters:
1. During Easter time, the liturgy often recalls Jesus’ words to his apostles at the Last Supper, where our Lord instituted the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders. The words of today’s Gospel come from St. John: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another . . . By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35). Charity is the essence of sanctity. This commandment is addressed to everyone, and Pope Francis reminds us of it frequently, especially in this jubilee year, by inviting us to practice the works of mercy.
These words of the Master are directed to you, my dear sons, in a special way, since you were spiritually present that evening in the Cenacle of Jerusalem in the person of the disciples. As St. Josemaría, our beloved Father, taught us repeatedly: you will be priests to serve all souls and, of course, your brothers and sisters, with a constant service that finds its supreme example in Christ, the Good Shepherd who cares for his flock, who feeds and defends it, even at the cost of his life.
All of us, as baptized person, must follow his example. For us who are priests, not only is it a duty of fidelity to Jesus, but also an essential condition for the fruitfulness of our ministry. The first reading reminds us of this truth. When Paul and Barnabas return from their first apostolic trip to strengthen the disciples in the evangelized cities, they state with conviction: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
I recall how forcefully St. John Paul II commented on this passage in the Mass of beatification for the founder of Opus Dei: “Although the way of the Kingdom of God passes through many tribulations, it ends in a sharing in glory, that glory which Christ revealed to us in his resurrection.” Embracing the Cross means practicing the new commandment, since “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).” As the Holy Father said a few days ago, speaking to new priests about to be ordained: “Without the cross you will never find the true Christ; and a cross without Christ makes no sense.”
2. My dear sons who are about to be ordained. Through the imposition of the hands of the bishop and the prayer of ordination, you will become priests of the New Covenant. In persona Christi Capitis, that is, acting in the person of Christ, the head of the Church, you will be able to act with his authority in the administration of the sacraments, proclaiming the Word of God in his name and serving all souls as our Lord did. You have in St. Josemaría a model for your priestly service. Meditate on the following words that he wrote in 1973, on the occasion of an event similar to that of today: “The sacrament of Orders, in effect, equips the priest to lend our Lord his voice, his hands, his whole being. It is Jesus Christ who, in the Holy Mass, through the words of the Çonsecration, changes the substance of the bread and wine into his Body, Soul, Blood, and Divinity.”
It is Jesus who, through you, will forgive the sins of the faithful who come, well prepared, to the sacrament of Penance. It is Jesus who will speak through your words, above all in the Eucharistic celebration, when you explain to the faithful the teachings of Scripture, as Christ himself did with the disciples from Emmaus. It is Jesus who, in you and with you, will serve all men and women, Christians and non-Christians, when they ask you for a word of consolation, a light to illuminate the darkness in which they often find themselves submerged. With words from the Gospel, I repeat to you: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
3. Before ending, I would like to thank your parents, your families, your friends, for their role in bringing about your Christian vocation in Opus Dei, and later your priestly vocation, above all with their prayer and good example.
The priesthood requires a closer conformity with Christ each day. “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). In his recent apostolic exhortation on the family, the Pope reminds us that “the family is the first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom.” And he adds that “raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith.”
Today is the anniversary of the First Holy Communion of St. Josemaría, in 1912, and of his Confirmation, a few years earlier. With what great love, with how much gratitude he used to recall each year these so joyful events! Through his intercession, let us ask God that these brothers of ours “be always faithful, pious, learned, dedicated, and cheerful priests.” Let us entrust them especially to our Lady, asking her “to take special care of those who will spend their lives serving her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Priest.”
I invite you, naturally, to pray for Pope Francis, for the vicar of the Pope for the diocese of Rome, Cardinal Vallini, for all the bishops and priests of the world; and let us accompany all seminarians with our prayer so that they be faithful to their call. Amen.