Priestly ordination April 28, 1996
S. John Paul II
Saint Peter, April 28, 1996
The Holy Father has ordained thirtyand eight new priests, of whom 18 are from the seminary”Redemptoris Mater”. This is his homily:
1. “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11).Dear Deacons, you will soon be ordained Priests and you will be intimately conformed to Christ the Good Shepherd, whose figure dominates this fourth Sunday of Easter, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.I welcome you with great affection, together with the communities of the four seminaries in Rome, in which you have completed your formative itinerary: the Roman Major Seminary, the Capranica College, the “Redemptoris Mater” Seminary and that of the Oblates of Divine Love. I welcome you with your families, in whom the roots of your call to the priesthood lie. Before being formed in the womb, you were already the object of a special plan of God (cf. Jer 1, 5).I welcome you with friends from parishes, associations, movements with which you have had pastoral experience. In this year, in which I remember the 50th priestly ordination, I am happy to lay hands on thirty-eight young people, who the diocese of Rome offers to God to dedicate themselves to the service of his people.
2.”I am the good Shepherd”. Let us pause for a few moments to meditate together on the words of the Gospel of John. In fact, they resonate today in a singular way for you, who with this sacrament are admitted to a special participation in the mystery of Christ the Priest and Good Shepherd.”The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). Thus, in Johannine language, Jesus summarizes his mission. We find the same logic in the words of the first letter of the apostle Peter:”He carried our sins into his bodyon the wood of the cross,because, no longer living for sin,we lived for justice;from his wounds you have been healed. . . .Christ suffered for you,leaving you an example,so that you may follow in his footsteps “(Jn 2:24. 21).Dear Deacons, on the day of your priestly ordination you are called to welcome and embrace this “Example” in a very personal and unconditional way. You are called to love it. Therefore, to each of you I say: adhere with all of yourself to the One who brought your sins and those of all humanity to the wood of the cross; love his example and follow in his footsteps!
3.”I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10:34).This “knowledge”, you know it well for having studied it and especially for having experienced it firsthand, is a singular knowledge. It arises from a saving concern. It is knowledge not only of the mind, but also of the heart; knowledge of those who love and, reciprocally, of those who are loved; who is loyal and who trusting. In the admirable Psalm 22, responsorial psalm of today’s liturgical celebration, this knowledge of love finds sublime expression in terms of a confession of praise of the praying soul, which enjoys peace and security without limits thanks to the caring presence of God:
“The Lord is my Shepherd: I lack nothing. On grassy pastures the Lord makes me rest, to calm waters it leads me. Reassures me, guides me on the right path, for the love of his name …In front of me you prepare a canteen …sprinkle my head with oil “(cf. Ps 22: 1-3. 5).
The trust and sense of security guaranteed by God the Good Shepherd do not fail even in the hour of trial and of the most difficult experiences:”If I had to walk in a dark valley,I would not fear any evil, because you are with me “(Ps 22: 4).On the day of the priestly ordination, dear Deacons, each of you revive trust in the depths of your heart: very solid and imperturbable trust, which flourishes in the soul just by invoking that Name: “Good Shepherd”. Revive it as of now, in the perspective of the trials and difficulties that life and the priestly ministry entail. Christ will always be a Shepherd solicitous in a particular way with regard to those whom he calls to participate, through the ministerial priesthood, in his own pastoral concern.
4.He is the door of the sheep (cf. Jn 10: 7).At all times, in good and bad times, the priest knows that his soul and those entrusted to his care form the object of a singular concern of the Good Shepherd. That’s why he confidently faces his mission. He knows that the passage to eternal life is open for all through the living, unique and universal door, which is Christ our Easter.Today, dear Deacons, you enter into an intimate relationship with Christ the Shepherd of souls. Each of you, configured to Him, will become co-responsible for the passage of souls from death to life, from life according to the flesh to life according to the Spirit. And it is possible to complete this task above all with prayer and with the offering of life for Christ, with Christ and in Christ.
As of now, therefore, I urge you to entrust to him, Shepherd and Door of the sheep, all those whom divine Providence will want to call and introduce through him, through your pastoral service. What responsibility! What can allow the priest to face such a task? Only the certainty that Christ is the Shepherd of all souls, and is close to every priest to support him in his ministry. And next to the priest is also Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Good Shepherd and of our priesthood. To you, dear Deacons, I entrust each of you and your ministry.
The Lord, who prepares a table before you, sprinkle your garment with gladness oil and cause your cup always be overflowing with his love (cf. Ps 22: 5).Amen!