VATICAN CITY, 3 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as "Good Shepherd" Sunday, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica and conferred priestly ordination on nineteen deacons of the diocese of Rome.
In his homily Benedict XVI explained how "disciples - and especially apostles - experience the same joy as Jesus in knowing the name and the face of the Father, and they share His pain in seeing that God is not known and that His love is not returned".
Quoting then from the First Letter of John - "the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him" - the Holy Father indicated that "the 'world', in John's use of the term, does not understand Christians, it does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. Partly this is because it does not, in fact, know God, and partly because it does not want to know Him. The world does not want to know God and listen to His ministers because this would lead it into crisis".
"The 'world'", he went on, "in its evangelical meaning, also threatens the Church, contaminating her members and even her ordained ministers. The 'world' is a mentality, a way of thinking and living that can even contaminate the Church, that actually does contaminate the Church, and hence requires constant vigilance and purification. ... We are 'in' the world, and we risk being 'of' the world".
"Jesus gave His life for everyone, yet in particular He consecrated Himself for those whom the Father gave to Him to be consecrated in the truth - that is, in Him - and who hence could speak and act in His name, represent Him, extend His salvific actions by breaking the bread of life and remitting sins".
As priests, said the Pope "we are called to 'abide' in Christ - as St. John the Evangelist liked to say - and this is achieved especially through prayer. Our ministry is completely dependent on such 'abiding', which is the same as prayer and from which it draws its effectiveness".
Among a priest's various forms of prayer Benedict XVI mentioned "first and foremost daily Mass. The celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest and most exalted form of prayer and is the centre and source from which the other forms receive their 'lifeblood", he said. He also mentioned "the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, 'lectio divina', the Holy Rosary and meditation".
"A priest who prays much and prays well is progressively expropriated of himself and becomes ever more united to Christ, the Good Shepherd and Servant of His brothers and sisters", said the Pope in conclusion. "In conformity with Him, the priest also 'gives his life' for the flock entrusted to his care".
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