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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Notre Dame addressed to Priests, Seminarians, Deacons and Religious

Notre-Dame Cathedral, ParisFriday, 12 September 2008

"Even now the word of God is given to us as the soul of our apostolate, the soul of our priestly life. Each morning the word awakens us. Each morning the Lord himself “opens our ear” (cf. Is 50:5) through the psalms in the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Throughout the day, the word of God becomes the substance of the prayer of the whole Church, as she bears witness in this way to her fidelity to Christ. In the celebrated phrase of Saint Jerome, to be taken up in the XII Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next month: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Prol. in Is.). Dear brother priests, do not be afraid to spend much time reading and meditating on the Scriptures and praying the Divine Office! Almost without your knowing it, God’s word, read and pondered in the Church, acts upon you and transforms you. As the manifestation of divine Wisdom, if that word becomes your life “companion”, it will be your “good counsellor” and an “encouragement in cares and grief” (Wis 8:9).

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword”, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us (4:12). Dear seminarians, who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and thus to share in the threefold office of teaching, governing and sanctifying, this word is given to you as a precious treasure. By meditating on it daily, you will enter into the very life of Christ which you will be called to radiate all around you. By his word, the Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrament of his Body and Blood; by his word, he healed the sick, cast out demons and forgave sins; by his word, he revealed to us the hidden mysteries of his Kingdom. You are called to become stewards of this word which accomplishes what it communicates. Always cultivate a thirst for the word of God! Thus you will learn to love everyone you meet along life’s journey. In the Church everyone has a place, everyone! Every person can and must find a place in her.

And you, dear deacons, effective co-workers of the Bishops and priests, continue to love the word of God! You proclaim the Gospel at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration, and you expound it in the catechesis you offer to your brothers and sisters. Make the Gospel the centre of your lives, of your service to your neighbours, of your entire diakonia. Without seeking to take the place of priests, but assisting them with your friendship and your activity, may you be living witnesses to the infinite power of God’s word!

In a particular way, men and women religious and all consecrated persons draw life from the Wisdom of God expressed in his word. The profession of the evangelical counsels has configured you, dear consecrated persons, to Christ, who for our sakes became poor, obedient and chaste. Your only treasure – which, to tell the truth, will alone survive the passage of time and the curtain of death – is the word of the Lord. It is he who said: “Heaven and earth will pass away; my words will not pass away” (Mt 24:35). Your obedience is, etymologically, a “hearing”, for the word obey comes from the Latin obaudire, meaning to turn one’s ear to someone or something. In obeying, you turn your soul towards the one who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), and who says to you, as Saint Benedict taught his monks: “Hear, my child, the teaching of the Master, and hearken to it with all your heart” (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict). Finally, let yourselves be purified daily by him who said: “Every branch that bears fruit my Father prunes, to make it bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2). The purity of God’s word is the model for your own chastity, ensuring its spiritual fruitfulness. "

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