Monday 15 - LAUDS
Homily by Card. Camillo Ruini General Vicar of the Holy Father for Rome
Dearest priests, it is a real joy for me to celebrate with you the office of Lauds, here in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope's Cathedral, during the Jubilee of the Clergy.
The reading of Jeremiah 31:33 contains the prophecy of the new alliance, written in our hearts, the alliance that was achieved and sealed at the Last Supper and by the Cross of Our Lord Jesus. This means that we are brought to the centre of the mystery of God's new people, and in it of our priesthood, a priesthood originating in Christ, deriving from Him its newness to the eleven: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21). And before Jesus had said: "He who welcomes you welcomes me, and he who welcomes me welcomes He who has sent me" (Mt 10:40).
This is the base for the relationship aspect of our identity as priests, as stated in the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores dabo vobis" (N.12). The first and original relationship is obviously that of our priesthood with Christ, and through Christ with the Father, in the gift of the Holy Spirit. As stated in the Apostolic Exhortation, "the reference to Christ is the absolutely necessary key for understanding priestly realities:" The immediate consequences of this are some basic criteria for orienting our life and spirituality as priests, such as becoming detached from our selves and providing our service gratuitously. Only then can we really comply with Christ and the mystery of Holy Trinity.
However, the relationship aspect of our priesthood extends from Christ and the Father to the entire realty of the Church. Let us listen again to "Pastores dabo vobis" (N.16): "The reference to the Church is included in the sole and same reference of the priest to Christ, in the sense that the sacramental representation of Christ establishes and gives life to the reference of the priest to the Church." This relationship with the Church is therefore developed according to a typically Christological and evangelical process of the good shepherd, who gives his life for his flock (Jn 10:11), of the chief who as such is a servant, having come to serve and not to be served (Mt 20:28), of the husband who loves the Church, his spouse, and sacrifices himself for her (Eph 5:25-27).
Because of this relationship aspect of our priesthood we must be men dedicated to communion, and our ministry, as stated in "Pastores dabo vobis" (N. 17), has a radical "community form". Concretely, each one of us is at the service of a particular Church in the communion of the universal Church. Moreover, the Council, in the Decree "Presbyterorum ordinis" (N. 10), stressed how "the spiritual gift that the priests have received in ordination does not prepare them for a limited and narrow mission, but rather for a vast and universal mission of salvation to the farthest ends of the earth, since any priestly ministry is part of the same universal scope as the mission entrusted by Christ to the Apostles." These words are of extraordinary relevance today, if we really want to serve the apostolic mission of the Church, and this Jubilee, with its universal outlook, helps us priests, and also in particular us Bishops, to take our pastoral and existential decisions seriously.
To truly be men of communion we must first of all continuously develop and nourish our interior life, that spirituality of communion, and I might say the mystical aspect of communion, which has an insuperable expression at the start of the first letter of St. John (1:3):
"What we have seen and hear, we also announce to you, so that you, too, may be in communion with us. Our communion is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ". We ask the Lord that the grace of this Jubilee of the Clergy be for us in particular the grace of communion, in the full, transcendent and fraternal sense, stated in this text of St. John.
For those who, like us, have received the gift of priesthood, communion takes on the specific aspect of pastoral charity. St. Augustine refers to the priestly ministry as "amoris officium", the task and duty of love: "Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem", may it be the task and duty of love to graze the flock of the Lord (In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus 123,5). The Holy Father has given us a rather suggestive comment of these words of St. Augustine, saying that "the priest who accepts the vocation to the ministry is able to make this a choice of love, so that the Church and souls become his main interest, and with this concrete spirituality he becomes capable of loving the universal Church and that portion of her which is entrusted to him, with all the enthusiasm of a husband for his spouse" (Speech to the priests on 4 November 1980).
Pastoral charity undoubtedly finds its best nourishment and its fullest expression in the Eucharist. Our daily Mass is therefore the secret of our capacity to serve without tiring, to love and to forgive. May the words of the Pope on 27 October 1995, at the Symposium promoted by the Congregation of the Clergy on the 30th anniversary of the Decree "Presbyterorum ordinis", also be the truth of our lives day by day for us bishops and priests: "The Holy Mass is absolutely the centre of my life and of every day of mine."
In order to be really fruitful and effective, the pastoral of vocations to the priesthood first of all needs priests and bishops who live in this way, and who, finding the sense and joy of their life in the mystery of their vocation and election, know how to communicate and diffuse this joy spontaneously and naturally, in order to attract other brothers, young and adults, to the priesthood. I would particularly like to dedicate this office of Lauds to prayer for vocations, because the priest who loves the Church and who devotes himself to her must be concerned with the future of the Church, a future in which the priesthood will remain, as it has always been, a vital element of the life and mission of the Church. May Holy Mary our Mother give strength to our prayer.