Very dear brothers of the episcopacy and the presbyterate,There really isn't a whole lot more to say...Cardinal Sarah, AD MULTOS ANNOS!!!!
Very dear brothers and sisters,
Very dear ordinands,I do not believe that it is by pure chance or simply a happy coincidence that you have chosen to receive the grace of the diaconate and the presbyterate, on the vigil of the solemnity of the the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. To me, it is evidence that divine providence, master of history and events, has itself helped to arrange the circumstances and the times of the sacrament that we celebrate today. God wants in this way to show us, at the end of that long preparation to your sacerdotal and pastoral ministry, that it is not you who give you to him, but it is he who, freely and in his great generosity, gives himself to you. Admittedly, today, in the eyes of the world, you enlist yourself to offer your bodies, your heart, all of your life and all of your ability to love the Lord. This personal and freely consented engagement, you will manifest all the time by the responses that you give to questions that I am going to address to your concerning your willingness to prach the gospel, to consacrate your life to prayer and praise and to live in obedience, celibacy, and poverty, for the love of Christ and as a sign of the gift of yourselves to God. But in reality, it is God himself who gives himself to you, so that in welcoming him in the depths of your heart, he makes of you the instruments of his love.
Saint Paul, identifying himself totally with the Christ who died and was resurrected, had the moving experience of having been loved personally by Jesus. That experience transformed him from top to bottom, until he shared the same existence, the same life, and the same love as that of Christ. “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. My present life in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God who has loved me and was delivered for me” (Galatians 2, 19-20). Yes, Jesus loves each one of us personally, freely, generously.
In effect, with the Holy Eucharist, sacrament, if one may say, of the divine generosity, God concedes to us his grace, and it is God himself who gives himself to us, in Jesus Christ who is really and always present—and not only during the Holy Mass—with his body, with his soul, with his blood and divinity. From now on, by the priestly ordination, you will, by vocation, have to perpetuate the eucharistic sacrifice daily, the sacrifice of the gift that Jesus makes of himself and you, the deacons, regularly kneeling for contemplation and adoration, you must give this presence of love to the Christian faithful so that they may be nourished with it. By the imposition of my hands and by a new and ineffable outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you are going to receive an indelible character in your souls that configures you to Christ, renders you completely identical to the Christ-Priest, in associating you with the plenitude of Christ, to act in the name of Jesus Christ, head of the Mystical Body (cf. Cyrill of Jerusalem, Catecheses, 22:3). You must work each day so that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, you perfectly resemble Christ, “a ressemblance similar to that which exists between water and water,” between the water that flows from the Source and that which, from there, has arrived in the jug. In effect, it is by nature the same purity that we have seen in Christ, and with he who participates in Christ. But with Christ it flows from the Source, and he who participates in Christ draws on that Source and causes the purity and beauty of Christ to pass into life (cf. St. Gregory of Nyssa). Yes, from now on you are not only an “Alter Christus,” but much more, you are “Ipse Christus.” You are Christ himself. An admirable mystery, but how formidible and terrifying at the same time!
With the sacrament of Holy Orders, you will, in pronouncing the very words of Christ, consecrate the bread and wine so that they become the body and blood of Christ. In this way, you are going to offer to God the Holy Sacrifice, pardon sins in sacramental confession and exercise the ministry of the teaching of doctrine to people, “in iis quae sunt ad Deum,” in all that has reference to God, and only in that. You see that everything you are, all that you do, all that you say, does not belong to you. Everything, absolutely everything, is a gift and manifestation of the love of God in your favor, and without any merit on your part.
This is why the priest should be exclusively a man of God, a saint or a man who aspires to sanctity, daily given to prayer, to thanksgiving and praise, and refusing to shine in the areas where other Christians have no need of him. The priest is not a psychologist, nor a sociologist, nor an anthropologist, nor a researcher in a nuclear reactor, nor a politician. He is another Christ, and I repeat: he is truly “Ipse Christus, Christ himself,” destined to support and iluminate the souls of his brothers and sisters, to guide men to God and open to them the spiritual treasures of which they are terribly deprived today. You are priests to reveal the God of Love who has revealed himself on the cross and to kindle, thanks to your prayers, faith, love, and the return of sinful man to God.
In effect, we live in a world where God is more and more absent and where we don’t know our values are and we don’t know our landmarks. We no longer have common moral reference points. We no longer know what is evil and what is good. There are a mulitude of points of view. Today, we call white what we once called black, and vice versa. What is serious, and make no mistake about it, is the transformation of error into a rule of life. In this context, as priests, pastors and guides of the People of God, you should be continuously focused on being always loyal to the doctrine of Christ. It is necessary for you to constantly strive to acquire the sensitivity of conscience, the faithful respect for dogma and morality, which constitute the desposit of faith and the common patrimony of the Church of Christ. It is precisely the advice and the exhortation that Saint Paul addresses to each one of us, today, in the first reading: “Show yourself a model for believers, by word, conduct, charity, faith, purity…Commit yourself to reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift that is within you, which has been conferred upon you by a prophetic intervention accompanied by the imposition of the hands of the college of priests…Watch over your person and your teaching; persevere in these dispositions” (1 Timothy 4:12-14, 16).
If we have fear of proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, if we are ashamed of denouncing grave deviations in the area of morality, if we accomodate ourselves to this world of moral laxity and religious and ethical relativism, if we are afraid to energetically denounce the abominable laws regarding the new global ethos, regarding marriage, the family in all of its forms, abortion, laws in total opposition to the laws of nature and of God, and that the western nations and cultures are promoting and imposing thanks to the mass media and their economic power, then the prophetic words of Ezechiel will fall on us as a grave divine reproach. “Son of man, prophetize against the pastors of Israel to pastor themselves. Should not the pastors feed the flock? You have been fed with milk, you have dressed yourselves with wool. You have not strengthened the weak lambs, cared for those who were sick, healed those who were injured. You have not restored those who have strayed, searched for those who were lost. But you have governed them with violence and hardness.” (Ez. 34: 2-4)
These reproaches are serious, but more important is the offense that we have committed against God when, having received the responsibility of caring for the spiritual good of all, we mistreat souls by depriving them of the true teaching of the doctrine of regarding God, regarding man, and the fundamental values of human existence, or we deprive them of the clear water of baptism that regenerates the soul, of the sanctifying oil of Confirmation which reinforces it, of the tribunal of pardon and of the eucharistic food that gives eternal life.
You, beloved friends well-loved servants of God, love to sit in the confessional to hear the souls who want to confess their sins and desire humbly to return to the paternal House. Celebrate the Eucharist with dignity, fervor, and faith. He who does not struggle to preach the Gospel, convert, protect, nourish, and lead the People of God down the road of truth and of life that is Jesus Christ himself, he who is silent in the face of the grave deviations of this world, enchanted by its technology and its scientific successes, exposes himself to one or another to the forms of slavery that can enchain your poor hearts: the slavery to an exclusively human vision of things, the slavery of ardently desiring temporal power or prestige, the slavery of vanity, the the slavery of money, the servitude to sensuality.
And there is only way that can liberate us from these forms of slavery and bring us to fully assume our ministry of pastors and of shepherds, and that is the way of love. Love, agapé, is the key for understanding Christ. And it is for that reason, he who exercises the pastoral ministry in the Church, connot put his energies in anything but a supreme love of Christ. To feed the flock is an act of love. This is because love ties us closely and intimately to Christ such that we are even to shepherd his flock, and this connection of love with Christ is so strong that we cannot go where we want. We are no longer masters of our time nor of ourselves. And it is precisely because of this that Jesus does not ask Peter if he knows him well, nor if he is content with the miraculous catch of which he was just gratified, to then confer upon him a personal and completely special mission. Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?” The first two times, Peter responds: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” But the third time, following the insistence of Jesus, Peter becomes more humble, smaller, profoundly hurt by the remembrance of his betrayal and his sin. He no longer uses the verb “love” alone, with all that which its meaning carries of purity, of clarity of strength, of truth, and of commitment. Remembering the painful experience of his wrechedness and his human weaknesses during the passion, he nuances his response in making it more humble and in attenuating it with a phrase that is like an expression of abandonment of self to the knowledge and the merciful love of God. Saint John recalls that “Peter was pained by being asked a third time “Do you love me” and he said to him “Lord, you know everything, you know well that I love you.” Jesus said to him: “Feed my lambs” (John 21:17).
Like the heart of Peter and like that of John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrated yesterday, the heart of the priest must be full of love and seek humility. For humility renders us more like Christ, who said: “I am meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Yes, humility and love bring us closer to and make us resemble God who “humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to death on a cross” (Philippians 3:8).
The duty and the mission of being a shepherd, of witnessing to Christ, is understood as nothing more than the love of Christ, than the love of the Crucified One. And the cross is the greatest school where we learn to love. When we do not love, we have terrible fear in the face of the powers of this world, and we seek to compromise. When, to the contrary, we love, there is no power that can close our mouths, and the lashes of the whip, the threats, the calumnies, or even stonings do nothing more than purify us of fear and fill our hearts “with joy for having being judged worthy of suffering outrages for the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41).
It seems to me that, if there is today a true crisis in the world, that crisis is that of the love of Christ and of the pope, the Vicar of Christ, among many, and even among certain Christians, priests, and bishops. They consider the pope and Christ as an idea or an institution or a power or a myth and not as they modestly and divinely are, to wit: a God that, in the man Jesus, has defeated death so that man can experience liberation, and a brother (the pope), who guides men liberated by the blood of Jesus and who are called, for their part, to lead others to the fullness of liberation that is nothing else than the plenitude of love. It is only in loving that the world, which does not know, will understand the meaning of belief, and will discover love, that love which is not a vague sentiment nor an egotistical quest for pleasure, but rather a friendly face, a brother who has died for each one of us, so that the world will discover love. This, then, will be the Passover, forever and for all, that Passover that the ordination of priests gives us to celebrate each day for the glory of God, the sanctification and the salvation of the world. I entrust you to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Amen.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Robert Cardinal Sarah....Clergy Must Stand Up and Defend the Church
In an address to the Ordinands to the Community of St. Martin, Card. Sarah says: