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At the priestly ordination of deacons of the Prelature, Basílica of St. Eugene, Rome (June 2, 2001)


Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Beloved Deacons:

1. The Church, born from Christ’s side on the Cross, was publicly manifested on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles with the force of a mighty wind [1] and rested upon them in the form of tongues of fire. [2] Before, they had locked themselves in the Cenacle out of fear. [3] Now, filled with the Spirit, no longer concerned about the dangers, they launched out openly to announce that only in Jesus, crucified and risen, could mankind attain salvation.

That same Spirit of holiness, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is poured out upon each Christian at the moment of Baptism, and later in Confirmation. Today there will descend upon you, my beloved deacons, a new effusion of the Paraclete. He will transform you into Christ’s priests and bring to birth in you a new life, [4] based on the service to souls that marks the ministerial priesthood. The Church took its first steps on earth with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and impelled by the Spirit it continues going forward in history.

In virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a marvelous transformation is on the point of being accomplished in you. You will listen in sacramental confession to the sins of men and pronounce the words of absolution. But it will be Christ who pardons them with his grace. And it will be He who, with the sound of your voice, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, will consecrate his Body and Blood in the Mass. The priesthood will give you the power to teach his truth with authority and to proclaim his law. It will confer on you the grace of letting Christ act through you, so that our Lord himself can continue consoling the afflicted, curing the wounds of the soul, cleansing human miseries, restoring hope to mankind, listening to the prayers of the humble. And you will marvel to see that, as happened on the day of Pentecost, people of all ages, social conditions and cultures will hear you praising God in their own language; and, moved by the Holy Spirit, they will unite themselves to your praise. [5]

Through the priest there is fulfilled each day the prophecy of Joel that we heard in the first reading: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. [6] Today we recognize with joy that the priestly ministry, with its great variety of functions (centered on preaching, administration of the sacraments and spiritual direction) renews in time the miracle of Pentecost. As an ancient Father of the Church tells us, our Lord “wanted his benefits to remain with us; he wanted the souls redeemed with his precious Blood to be continually sanctified by the sacrament of his Passion. Therefore he commanded his first disciples, whom he made the first priests in his Church, to unceasingly celebrate these mysteries of eternal life.

“It is necessary, then, that all priests celebrate the sacraments in churches throughout the whole world, until Christ returns from heaven, so that we, both ministers and the faithful, may have every day before our eyes and in our hands the memorial of the passion of Christ, receiving it in our mouth and in our breast, preserving the indelible memory of our redemption.” [7]

2. The coming of the Holy Spirit into the world, by bringing Christ’s mission to perfection, crowned the divine plan of redemption. The Spirit of truth, [8] as our Lord promised, guides us into all the truth. [9]
What is truth? [10] Pilate asks, trying to rob us of all certitude. The Spirit shows us, in contrast, that the truth is found in this God of ours who, out of love for us, went to the extreme of giving his life for us. Truth is love shown by sacrifice. The love for which we have been created and in which we find our happiness is not a vague sentiment or fleeting emotion; nor is it simply compassion. It is the gift of self: this is what the Holy Spirit makes us discover in Christ’s face, furrowed by pain during the Passion and transfigured by the glory of the Resurrection. God has given himself to man, to every man and woman, so that we can love him unconditionally. Saint Paul sums up this reality in the following words: I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [11]

God asks us for everything. As Blessed Josemaria wrote: “Jesus is never satisfied ‘sharing.’ He wants all.” [12] Any soul led by the Holy Spirit understands that it could not be otherwise, because the contrary would not be love. Such a soul does not see renunciations, burdens or sacrifices in what God asks of him, but rather opportunities to demonstrate with deeds that he truly loves. “How little a life is to offer to God.” [13] From this perspective, which is that of Christ’s passion, even suffering becomes a manifestation of our Lord’s love of predilection.

3. My dear deacons: You have had the generosity to respond to our Lord with an unconditional Yes, when he called you to the priesthood in the Prelature of Opus Dei, in order to serve the Church in a new way, in a priestly way. One attains maturity in the spiritual life only when, in the face of each request of our Lord, love overcomes selfishness and leads us to strive decisively for the goals held up to us. Now a long path is opening up before you, before each of us. Our Lord is waiting for us to say Yes to him many more times. Let us forcefully invoke the Holy Spirit, who will transform us into Christ and awaken in our souls the same sentiments of abnegation and dedication that always filled Christ’s heart. [14]

Victory over our selfishness requires a lifetime of struggle. The Holy Spirit never ceases to sustain us and to spur us on with his grace. Therefore, as Blessed Josemaria wrote, the fundamental disposition we need in front of the Paraclete can be summed up in one word: docility. Anyone who strives to follow the promptings of the Spirit experiences his efficacious assistance. What seemed impossible becomes the starting point for another step forward. Scripture describes the interventions of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity with metaphors of an impetuous wind, a consuming fire, water springing up to life eternal: images which elicit in us a firm hope and trust in the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives.

Let us meditate once more on the Pope’s concluding words in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte: “A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ.” Jesus invites us “to share the enthusiasm of the very first Christians: we can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start out anew, sustained by the hope ‘which does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5).” [15] If we correspond to the action of the Paraclete, holiness, identification with Christ, will be a goal within the reach of each of us, despite our personal littleness.

What a great need there is for many holy priests! Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. [16] Priests filled with love for God and their brethren, always united to the Holy Father and to their own Ordinary—in your case the Ordinary of the Prelature of Opus Dei. I ask the Paraclete today, in a special way, to nourish in our souls a great love for the Church, which will encourage us to pray insistently for the Pope, for the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, for all the bishops, for priests and religious, for the entire people of God.

I will finish by once again reminding all the parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends of these candidates to the priesthood that, through this ordination, the Holy Spirit will enter more fully into their lives. You too are receiving a great gift today and are assuming a great responsibility before the whole Church. Invoke the Paraclete so that, in pouring down his grace, he will renew the marvelous deeds of Pentecost. To attain this, let us go to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Cf. Acts 2:2.

[2] Cf. Acts 2:3.

[3] Cf. Jn 20:19.

[4] Cf. Rom 6:4.

[5] Cf. Acts 2:11.

[6] Joel 2:28 [3:1].

[7] Saint Gaudentius of Brescia, Treatises, 2 (CSEL 68, 30-32).

[8] Jn 14:17.

[9] Jn 16:13.

[10] Jn 18:38.

[11] Rom 12:1.

[12] The Way, no. 155.

[13] Ibid., no. 420.

[14] See Phil 2:5.

[15] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, January 6, 2001, no. 58.

[16] Mt 9:38.

Romana, No. 32, January-June 2001, p. 53-56.

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