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Monday, 15 May - Celebration of Vespers



Dearest Brethren in the Priesthood,


With the prophet Isaiah we can repeat this evening, with profound joy and vigorous hope, that "as rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return there without watering the earth, without making it fertile and making it blossom" (Is 55:10), so will the Divine Word we have just not only heard, but also spoken and sung, become; it will not return to God without effect, without having affected us as it wishes and without achieving that for which it has been sent (cf. Is 55:11): our conversion and reconciliation with Him.

Every faithful Christian, every son of the Church should feel summoned by the common and urgent responsibility of a deeper and more sincere metanoia, which is adhesion to the life new offered to us in full by Christ, and in a very particular way to us priests, chosen, consecrated and sent so that the contemporary nature of Christ, may emerge, and of whom we become the authentic representatives and messengers (cf. Congregation for the Clergy, Circular Letter The Priest, master of the Word, minister of the Sacrament and guide of the Community in view of the third Christian millennium, Introduction). Pilgrims with Mary, in the spirit of penitence, in our Jubilee of the Clergy in this year of grace of the Lord (cf. Lk 4:18-19), and near the place of martyrdom of Peter, Prince of the Apostles and foundation of the Church (Mt 16:18), and the place of his Confessio, maximum proof of love and fidelity to Christ, we invoke the blessings and consolations of her Son with the words of the Preces ad Vespras which we will soon repeat: «Rex amantíssime, miserére» (Ad Vespras, Preces).

We bow down with humble faith to the great mystery of love of the Heart of the Redeemer and we wish to give Him thanks, honour and glory. Here is the Divine Heart, eloquent sign of His invincible love and inexhaustible source of true peace!

The peace brought on the earth by Christ is the gift of a God who loves, who has loved the man in the heart his only begotten Son. «He is our peace» (Phil 2:14) exclaims the Apostle. Yes, Jesus is our peace and reconciliation. It was He who destroyed the enmity which arose after man's sin and reconciled all men with the Father by His death on the Cross. On Golgotha, where the Heart of Jesus was pierced by the lance, the Word Incarnate manifested to us the total gift of Himself, a sublime epiphany of that sacrificial and salvific love with which He "loved us until the end" (Jn 13,1), forming the basis of the divine friendship with men. The words of the Apostle of the peoples, that we have just heard in the Lectio brevis, sum this up admirably: "God rich in mercy, by the great love with which he has loved us, from being dead for our since has made us live again with Christ" (Eph 2:4-5).

Venerable brethren in the Priesthood, we know full well that the Church lives incessantly through the Gospel of love and peace: she proclaims it to all the peoples and all the nations, tirelessly pointing out the ways of peace and reconciliation. She introduces peace by breaking down the wall of prejudice and hostility between men. We, as servants of Christ in His Church, His living image (cf. 1 Cor 4:1; Phil 2:7), are called upon to bring His charity and peace first of all by the sacrament of Penitence and Reconciliation. Offering the faithful the grace of divine mercy and forgiveness, we bring Christ nearer to the roots of human anguish, and enable the Divine Physician to heal the consciences injure3d by sin, distributing the sweetness and kindness of his comfort and the balm of sanctifying grace, offering to men that peace which the world cannot give (cf. Jn 14:27).

We also know fully well that the dominant trends in today's culture are full of materialistic relativism and idolatric secularism, which weaken the sense of sin and of the presence of God in man's life. Man is called to communion with God in the holy life: "Vivens homo gloria Dei; vita hominis, visio Dei" St. Irenaeus reminds us. The glory of God is the living man and the life of man is the manifestation of God» (Against the Heresies, IV,20,7). "All of creation is actually the manifestation of His glory; in particular man (vivens homo) is epiphany of the glory of God, called upon to live the fullness of life in God", comments the Holy Father in this regard (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, n. 6).

A greater pastoral effort is therefore required to help the faithful rediscover the sense of sin and the personal nature of the offence against God, against the God who calls us friends. Let us teach people to appreciate the beauty and the joy of the sacrament of forgiveness! It is the warm embrace of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:11-32) who patiently awaits in the time of our earthly life and continuously seeks us on the ways of the world, to welcome us festively and definitively the happiness of His House.

Let us therefore be witnesses of the merciful love of God! Let us dispense with renewed faith and a greater sense of responsibility His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (cf. CIC, can 986), knowing that this derives from our specific duty, the sweet duty of justice and charity, to the whole Church and to all men.

Let us first of all formulate within ourselves the intention of frequenting more regularly and with a profound spirit of contrition this place of divine friendship, the tribunal of forgiveness, where we encounter the Holy Door of the Jubilee, Christ the Lord Himself. We want to imitate Him ever more faithfully to become alter Christus, ipse Christus, this being our identity and the scope of our life in the ordained ministry.

With the maternal intercession and patronage of Mary, Mother of the Church and her priests, Queen of Evangelisation, may all of us, ministers of Christ, in the spirit of penitence and humility, don the charity her Son, Eternal High Priest, and with a heart renewed by abounding sacramental grace, let us serve the People of God who, at the dawn of the third millennium, yearn perhaps more than ever for the sources of the merciful love of which we are custodians and dispensers (cf. John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Dives in misericordia, 30.11.1980, n. 13).