Entry 0283: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On six occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on 5 June 2005 (Sunday), 25 June 2006 (Sunday), 1 June 2008 (Sunday), 19 June 2009 (Friday), 11 June 2010 (Friday), and 13 June 2010 (Sunday). Here are the texts of the four reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and the two homilies delivered on these occasions.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust all the priests in the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose liturgical Memorial we celebrated yesterday, so that they may continue with the power of the Gospel to build everywhere the civilization of love.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 5 June 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Friday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that is deeply rooted in the Christian people. In biblical language, “heart” indicates the centre of the person where his sentiments and intentions dwell. In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God’s love for humanity, his will for universal salvation, his infinite mercy.
Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life.
The feast of the Sacred Heart is also World Day for the Sanctification of Priests, a favourable opportunity to pray that priests will put nothing before love of Christ. Bl. Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, patron of migrants, was deeply devoted to the Heart of Christ; we commemorated the centenary of his death on 1 June. He founded the men and women Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo, known as the “Scalabrinians”, to proclaim the Gospel among Italian emigrants.
In recalling this great Bishop, I turn my thoughts to those who are far from their homeland and also often from their family, and I hope that on their way they will always meet friendly faces and welcoming hearts that can sustain them in the difficulties of daily life.
The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a doubt the Heart of Mary, his Immaculate Mother, and for this very reason the liturgy holds them up together for our veneration. Responding to the Virgin’s invitation at
Fatima, let us entrust the whole world to her Immaculate
Heart, which we contemplated yesterday in a special way, so that it may
experience the merciful love of God and know true peace.
St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 June 2006
This Sunday, the 12th in Ordinary Time, is as though “surrounded” by significant liturgical solemnities. Last Friday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an event that felicitously unites this popular devotion with theological depth. It was traditional - and in some countries, still is - to consecrate families to the Sacred Heart, whose image they would keep in their homes.
The devotion is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation; it is precisely through the Heart of Jesus that the Love of God for humanity is sublimely manifested.
This is why authentic devotion to the Sacred Heart has retained all its effectiveness and especially attracts souls thirsting for God’s mercy who find in it the inexhaustible source from which to draw the water of Life that can irrigate the deserts of the soul and make hope flourish anew. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests: I take the opportunity to invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for priests always, so that they will be effective witnesses of Christ’s love.
Yesterday, the liturgy enabled us to celebrate the Birth of St John the Baptist, the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (see Mt 11: 14; 17: 10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (see Jn 1: 1, 23; 1: 7-8; 3: 29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3: 30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian.
Allowing the “I” of Christ to replace our “I” was in an exemplary way the desire of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whom the Church venerates with solemnity on 29 June.
St Paul wrote of himself: “It
is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20).
Before them and before any other saint, it was Mary Most Holy who lived this reality and cherished in her heart the words of her Son Jesus. Yesterday we contemplated her Immaculate Heart, the heart of a mother that continues to watch tenderly over us all. May her intercession enable us to remain ever faithful to our Christian vocation.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1st June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Sunday, which coincides with the beginning of June, I am pleased to recall that this month is traditionally dedicated to the Heart of Christ, symbol of the Christian faith, particularly dear to the people, to mystics and theologians because it expresses in a simple and authentic way the “good news” of love, compendium of the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption. Last Friday, after the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the third and last feast following Eastertide. This sequence calls to mind a movement toward the centre: a movement of the spirit which God himself guides. In fact, from the infinite horizon of his love, God wished to enter into the limits of human history and the human condition. He took on a body and a heart. Thus, we can contemplate and encounter the infinite in the finite, the invisible and ineffable Mystery in the human Heart of Jesus, the Nazarene. In my first Encyclical on the theme of love, the point of departure was exactly “contemplating the pierced side of Christ”, which John speaks of in his Gospel (see 19: 37; Deus Caritas Est, no. 12). And this centre of faith is also the font of hope in which we have been saved, the hope that I made the object of my second Encyclical.
Every person needs a “centre” for his own life, a source of truth and goodness to draw from in the daily events, in the different situations and in the toil of daily life. Every one of us, when he/she pauses in silence, needs to feel not only his/her own heartbeat, but deeper still, the beating of a trustworthy presence, perceptible with faith’s senses and yet much more real: the presence of Christ, the heart of the world. Therefore, I invite each one of you to renew in the month of June his/her own devotion to the Heart of Christ, also using the traditional prayer of the daily offering and keeping present the intentions I have proposed for the whole Church.
Next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the liturgy invites us to venerate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With great confidence let us entrust ourselves to her. Once again I would like to invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin for the populations of
China and Myanmar
struck by natural calamities and for those who are going through the many
situations of pain, sickness, material and spiritual poverty that mark humanity’s
SOLEMNITY OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
OPENING OF THE YEAR FOR PRIESTS
ON THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH
OF SAINT JOHN MARY VIANNEY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Saint Peter’s Basilica, Friday, 19 June 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In a little while we shall sing in the antiphon to the Magnificat: “The Lord has drawn us to his heart—Suscepit nos Dominus in sinum et cor suum”. God’s heart, as the expression of his will, is spoken of twenty-six times in the Old Testament. Before God’s heart men and women stand judged. His heartfelt pain at sins of mankind makes God decide on the flood, but then he is touched by the sight of human weakness and offers his forgiveness. Yet another passage of the Old Testament speaks of God’s heart with absolute clarity: it is in the eleventh chapter of the book of the Prophet Hosea, whose opening lines portray the Lord’s love for Israel at the dawn of its history: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos 11:1).
however, responds to God’s constant offer of love with indifference and even
outright ingratitude. “The more I called them”, the Lord is forced to admit, “the
more they went from me” (v. 2). Even so, he never abandons Israel to the power of its enemies,
because “my heart”—the the Creator of the universe observes—”recoils within me,
my compassion grows warm and tender” (v. 8).
The heart of God burns with compassion! On today’s solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Church presents us this mystery for our contemplation: the mystery of the heart of a God who feels compassion and who bestows all his love upon humanity. A mysterious love, which in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God’s boundless and passionate love for mankind. God does not lose heart in the face of ingratitude or rejection by the people he has chosen; rather, with infinite mercy he sends his only-begotten Son into the world to take upon himself the fate of a shattered love, so that by defeating the power of evil and death he could restore to human beings enslaved by sin their dignity as sons and daughters. But this took place at great cost—the only-begotten Son of the Father was sacrificed on the Cross: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (see Jn 13:1). The symbol of this love which transcends death is his side, pierced by a spear. The Apostle John, an eyewitness, tells us: “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (see Jn 19:34).
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for responding to my invitation and coming in great numbers to this celebration with which we inaugurate the Year for Priests. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops, in particular the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, together with the officials of that Congregation and the Bishop of Ars. I greet the priests and seminarians from the various seminaries and colleges in
Rome; the men and women religious and all the
lay faithful present. In a special way I greet His Beatitude Ignace Youssef
Younan, the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, who has come to Rome to meet me and to
recognize publicly the “ecclesiastica communio” which I have granted
Together let us pause to contemplate the pierced heart of the Crucified One. Just now we heard once again, in the brief reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6). To be “in” Jesus Christ is already to be seated in heaven. The very core of Christianity is expressed in the heart of Jesus; in Christ the revolutionary “newness” of the Gospel is completely revealed and given to us: the Love that saves us and even now makes us live in the eternity of God. As the Evangelist John writes: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). God’s heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to forsake our human certainties, to trust in him and, by following his example, to make ourselves a gift of unbounded love.
While it is true that Jesus’ invitation to “abide in my love” (see Jn 15:9) is addressed to all the baptized, on this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the day of prayer for the sanctification of priests, this invitation resounds all the more powerfully for us priests. It does so in a special way this evening, at the solemn inauguration of the Year for Priests which I have proclaimed to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars. A lovely and touching saying of his, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, comes immediately to mind: “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus” (no. 1589). How can we fail to be moved when we recall that the gift of our priestly ministry flows directly from this heart? How can we forget that we priests were consecrated to serve, humbly yet authoritatively, the common priesthood of the faithful? Ours is an mission which is indispensable for the Church and for the world, a mission which calls for complete fidelity to Christ and constant union with him. To abide in his love entails constantly striving for holiness, as did Saint John Mary Vianney.
In the Letter which I wrote to you for this special Jubilee Year, dear brother priests, I wished to highlight some essential aspects of our ministry by making reference to the example and teaching of the Curé of Ars, the model and protector of all priests, especially parish priests. I hope that my Letter will prove a help and encouragement to you in making this Year a graced opportunity to grow ever closer to Jesus, who counts on us, his ministers, to spread and build up his Kingdom, and to radiate his love and his truth. As I invited you at the conclusion of my Letter: “in the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by Christ. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!”.
To be completely enthralled by Christ! This was the goal of the entire life of
Saint Paul, to whom we looked throughout the
Pauline Year now ending; this was the goal of the entire ministry of the Curé
of Ars, whom we shall invoke in particular during this Year for Priests; may it
also be the primary goal for each and every one of us. Certainly, to be
ministers at the service of the Gospel, study and careful, ongoing pastoral and
theological formation are useful and necessary, but even more necessary is that
“knowledge of love” which can only be learned in a “heart to heart” encounter
with Christ. For it is he who calls us to break the bread of his love, to
forgive sins and to guide the flock in his name. And for that reason we must
never step back from the source of love which is his heart, pierced on the
Only in this way can we cooperate effectively in the mysterious “plan of the Father” which consists in “making Christ the heart of the world”! This plan is accomplished in history as Jesus gradually becomes the Heart of human hearts, beginning with those called to be closest to him: namely his priests. We are reminded of this constant commitment by the “priestly promises” that we made on the day of our ordination and which we renew yearly on Holy Thursday during the Chrism Mass. Even our shortcomings, our limitations and our weaknesses ought to bring us back to the heart of Jesus. If it is true that by contemplating Christ sinners learn from him the “sorrow for sins” needed to bring them back to the Father, this is even more the case for sacred ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing causes more suffering for the Church, the Body of Christ, than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who become “thieves and robbers” of the sheep (see Jn 10:1 ff.), lead them astray by their own private teachings, or ensnare them in the toils of sin and death? Dear priests, the summons to conversion and to trust in God’s mercy also applies to us; we too must humbly, sincerely and unceasingly implore the heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrifying risk of endangering the very people we are obliged to save.
A few moments ago, in the Choir Chapel, I was able to venerate the relic of the saintly Curé of Ars: his heart. A heart that blazed with divine love, experienced amazement at the thought of the dignity of the priest, and spoke to the faithful in touching and sublime tones, telling them that “after God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is” (see Letter for the Year for Priests, p. 3). Dear brothers, let us cultivate this same amazement, in order to carry out our ministry with generosity and dedication, and to maintain the true “fear of God” in our hearts: the fear, that is, that we can deprive of so much good, by our negligence or fault, the souls entrusted to our care, or that—God forbid—we can do them harm. The Church needs holy priests; ministers capable of helping the faithful to experience the Lord’s merciful love, and convinced witnesses of that love. In the Eucharistic Adoration which is to follow our celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest afire with that “pastoral charity” which can make him one in heart and mind with Jesus the High Priest, and thus to imitate Jesus in complete self-giving. May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we shall contemplate with lively faith tomorrow, obtain this grace for us. The Curé of Ars had a filial devotion to Mary, a devotion so profound that in 1836, in anticipation of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he dedicated his parish to Mary “conceived without sin”. He frequently renewed this offering of the parish to the Blessed Virgin, teaching his parishioners that “to be heard it is enough to speak to her”, for the simple reason that she “desires above all else to see us happy”. May the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, accompany us during the Year for Priests which we begin today, so that we can be wise and steady guides of the flock which the Lord has entrusted to our pastoral care. Amen!
CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR FOR PRIESTS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St Peter’s Square, Friday, 11 June 2010
Dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Year for Priests which we have celebrated on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the holy Curè of Ars, the model of priestly ministry in our world, is now coming to an end. We have let the Curé of Ars guide us to a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him. The priesthood, then, is not simply “office” but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood”. That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, and our gratitude for the fact that he entrusts himself to our infirmities; that he guides and sustains us daily. In this way we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist – and that God is indeed waiting for us to say “yes”. Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God’s harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do. It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the “enemy”; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers. Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God’s gift, a gift concealed in “earthen vessels” which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes his love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, his gift becomes a commitment to respond to God’s courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility. The word of God, which we have sung in the Entrance Antiphon of the liturgy, can speak to us, at this hour, of what it means to become and to be priests: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point. Today I would like to meditate especially on those texts with which the Church in prayer responds to the word of God presented in the readings. In those chants, word (Wort) and response (Antwort) interpenetrate. On the one hand, the chants are themselves drawn from the word of God, yet on the other, they are already our human response to that word, a response in which the word itself is communicated and enters into our lives. The most important of those texts in today’s liturgy is Psalm 23(22) – “The Lord is my shepherd” – in which
at prayer received God’s self-revelation as shepherd, and made this the guide
of its own life. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: this first verse
expresses joy and gratitude for the fact that God is present to and concerned
for us. The reading from the Book of Ezechiel begins with the same theme: “I
myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ez 34:11). God personally looks
after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the
universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. God
looks after me. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless. The
world’s religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end
there is only one God. But this God was distant. Evidently he had abandoned the
world to other powers and forces, to other divinities. It was with these that
one had to deal. The one God was good, yet aloof. He was not dangerous, nor was
he very helpful. Consequently one didn’t need to worry about him. He did not
lord it over us. Oddly, this kind of thinking re-emerged during the
Enlightenment. There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a
Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it.
The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not,
could not, intervene in them. God was only a remote cause. Many perhaps did not
even want God to look after them. They did not want God to get in the way. But
wherever God’s loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings
go awry. It is fine and consoling to know that there is someone who loves me
and looks after me. But it is far more important that there is a God who knows
me, loves me and is concerned about me. “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn
10:14), the Church says before the Gospel with the Lord’s words. God knows
me, he is concerned about me. This thought should make us truly joyful. Let us
allow it to penetrate the depths of our being. Then let us also realize what it
means: God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share his
concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share his concern
for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete
experience of God’s concern. Whatever the field of activity entrusted to him,
the priest, with the Lord, ought to be able to say: “I know my sheep and mine
know me”. “To know”, in the idiom of sacred Scripture, never refers to merely
exterior knowledge, like the knowledge of someone’s telephone number. “Knowing”
means being inwardly close to another person. It means loving him or her. We
should strive to “know” men and women as God does and for God’s sake; we should
strive to walk with them along the path of God’s friendship.
Let us return to our Psalm. There we read: “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me” (23:3ff.). The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one’s life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way. Living with Christ, following him – this means finding the right way, so that our lives can be meaningful and so that one day we might say: “Yes, it was good to have lived”. The people of
continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments he pointed out the
way of life. The great Psalm 119(118) is a unique expression of joy for this
fact: we are not fumbling in the dark. God has shown us the way and how to walk
aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesized in the life of Jesus
and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not
chains, but the way which he is pointing out to us. We can be glad for them and
rejoice that in Christ they stand before us as a lived reality. He himself has
made us glad. By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and
as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we
have been shown the right way of life.
Then there is the phrase about the “darkest valley” through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. “If I sink to the nether world, you are present there”, says Psalm 139(138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.
“Your rod and your staff – they comfort me”: the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church’s ministry, of the priest’s ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd’s staff – a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord.
At the end of the Psalm we read of the table which is set, the oil which anoints the head, the cup which overflows, and dwelling in the house of the Lord. In the Psalm this is an expression first and foremost of the prospect of the festal joy of being in God’s presence in the temple, of being his guest, whom he himself serves, of dwelling with him. For us, who pray this Psalm with Christ and his Body which is the Church, this prospect of hope takes on even greater breadth and depth. We see in these words a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God himself makes us his guests and offers himself to us as food – as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man’s hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God and live in his dwelling-place? How can we not rejoice at the fact that he has commanded us: “Do this in memory of me”? How can we not rejoice that he has enabled us to set God’s table for men and women, to give them his Body and his Blood, to offer them the precious gift of his very presence. Truly we can pray together, with all our heart, the words of the Psalm: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps 23:6).
Finally, let us take a brief look at the two communion antiphons which the Church offers us in her liturgy today. First there are the words with which
Saint John concludes the account of Jesus’
crucifixion: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once
blood and water came out” (Jn 19:34). The heart of Jesus is pierced by the
spear. Once opened, it becomes a fountain: the water and the blood which stream
forth recall the two fundamental sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism
and the Eucharist. From the Lord’s pierced side, from his open heart, there
springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and
which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life;
here John was certainly also thinking of the prophecy of Ezechiel who saw
flowing forth from the new temple a torrent bestowing fruitfulness and life (Ez
47): Jesus himself is the new temple, and his open heart is the source of a
stream of new life which is communicated to us in Baptism and the Eucharist.
The liturgy of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also permits another phrase, similar to this, to be used as the communion antiphon. It is taken from the Gospel of John: Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me. And let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said: “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (see Jn 7:37ff.) In faith we drink, so to speak, of the living water of God’s Word. In this way the believer himself becomes a wellspring which gives living water to the parched earth of history. We see this in the saints. We see this in Mary, that great woman of faith and love who has become in every generation a wellspring of faith, love and life. Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirst world. Lord, we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 June 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Year for Priests came to an end a few days ago. Here in
Rome we lived unforgettable days, with the
presence of more than 15,000 priests from across the world. Therefore, today I
would like to thank God for all the benefits that this Year has brought to the
universal Church. No one will ever be able to measure them but they can
certainly be seen and their fruits will be even easier to see.
The Year for Priests ended on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which is traditionally the “day of priestly sanctification”; and it was so this time in a quite special way. In fact, dear friends, the priest is a gift of the Heart of Christ: a gift for the Church and for the world. From the Heart of the Son of God, brimming with love, flow all the goods of the Church. In particular, originates in it the vocation of those men who, won over by the Lord Jesus, leave all things to devote themselves without reserve to the service of the Christian people, after the example of the Good Shepherd. The priest is moulded by the charity of Christ himself, that love which impelled him to lay down his life for his friends and also to forgive his enemies. For this reason all priests are first and foremost workers of the civilization of love. And here I am thinking of so many priests, known and less known figures, some of whom have been raised to the honour of the altars, others whose memory lives on indelibly in the faithful, even in a small parish community, as happened at Ars, the French village where St John Mary Vianney exercised his ministry. There is no need to add further words to what has been said in these past months. However, from now on this Saint’s intercession must accompany us even more frequently. May his prayer, his “Act of Love”, which we have so often recited during this Year for Priests continue to nurture our conversation with God.
Another figure I wish to remember: Fr Jerzy Popiełuszko, a priest and martyr who was proclaimed Blessed in
precisely last Sunday. He exercised his generous and courageous ministry beside
all those who were working for freedom, for the defence of life and for its
dignity. His work at the service of goodness and truth was a sign of
contradiction for the regime governing Poland at the time. Love of the
Heart of Christ led him to give his life and his witness was the seed of a new
springtime in the Church and in society. If we look at history, we can note how
many pages of authentic spiritual and social renewal were written with the
crucial contribution of Catholic priests, motivated solely by passion for the
Gospel and for human beings and for their true freedom, both religious and
civil. How many initiatives of integral human promotion have been born from the
intuition of a priestly heart!
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