44th World Day of Prayer for Vocations
Institution of Five New Acolytes
Cathedral of St. Peter, 29 April 2007
1. As has been noted, the Gospel passage proclaimed today is very brief. We ought not, however, be drawn into an illusion by our superficiality: they are very profound words and rich with significance.
The beginning reveals to us that between Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and us His disciples exists a very intimate relationship: "My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me." The relationship that Jesus has with his disciples is of knowledge: "I know them."
My beloved faithful, things and persons are known. What diversity exists between the two types of knowledge! To know a person means to enter in his interior world: it means to feel his thoughts and tastes. In the end, he who truly knows a person loves him. It is love that renders discerning the eyes of knowledge. And so Jesus immediately adds: "I give them eternal life."
My beloved faithful, our Christian faith is the experience of this knowledge – the love of Jesus. It is "feeling oneself" known – loved by Jesus. What is more sad than the human person who lives in solitude, who ought to say, "No one knows me; no one interests himself with me"? Today the Gospel word shows us that each of us is known by Jesus. He interests himself with all of us. And He does it in the grandest way: "I give them eternal life."
Nevertheless, it is also true that in order to know a person, he needs to agree to be known: he cannot close himself to the look of the other. This is also true for the disciple of the Lord: "My sheep hear my voice…and they follow Me." What does it mean, "to let oneself be known by the Lord"? Two things, as He has said: to hear His word and to follow His way. No one builds a reciprocal relationship if he does not listen to us, if he does not share the same life with us. It is like this with Jesus. How could we speak of knowing Him as He knows us, if we do not have His thoughts, walk the way by His route, and have His tastes and His preferences?
When a truly reciprocal relationship is established between Jesus and His disciple, an extraordinary event happens. We become the property of Jesus; we belong to Him. This event is told with the strong image of being held in hand. "No one robs them from My hand." My beloved faithful, belonging to Jesus is our true salvation. "The true shepherd," in fact, "does not possess the sheep as just an object that is used and consumed; they belong to Him in knowing each other, and this knowledge is an interior agreement. An interior belonging suggests that this is more profound than the possession of things" (J. Ratzinger – Benedict XVI, Gesù di Nazareth, Rizzoli, Milano 2007, p. 325).
But Jesus makes an addition that truly leaves us stupefied and dismayed. "My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all and no one can steal them from the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one." Our relationship with Jesus roots itself in the relationship He has with the Father. By belonging to Jesus, we belong to the Father. The relationship which we are living with Jesus in this moment introduces us into the same Mystery of God, of his Trinitarian life.
2. Today, the Church, scattered throughout the world, prays to her Spouse that He not leave her lacking the Chief Shepherd by means of the shepherds of various communities, by means of priests. Also, she thanks the Father of every grace because these youths today mark a new stage unto the priesthood, as our Church begins to seriously suffer from the lack of priests.
This is neither the place nor the time to make an analysis on the causes of this situation. This is the moment of prayer because Christ has not abandoned us. Yes, beloved faithful, the shortage of priests indicates a lack of the visible presence of the Lord who lives and shares the lot of His disciples.
But there can be a risk for us: habituating ourselves to this situation. Always understanding and living the faith more as a subjective choice, the necessity of pastors is not clearly seen, they who guide and give us the life of grace. We pray that He increase in us this day the desire for the priesthood; that this desire makes our prayer more fervent; that our prayer reveals to us our lack of regard; that the awareness of our poverty makes us cry out to the Lord: "Do not abandon us; do not leave us, your faithful, without a guide, o Holy Shepherd; do not forget us, your disciples, o Good Shepherd." Amen.
La traduzione, non rivista dal Card. Caffarra, è di Ryan Hilderbrand.