6 Decades Teach How Good the Lord Is, Says Pope

Shares Personal Reflection on 60th Anniversary of Ordination

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The 84-year-old Pope today paused to warmly remember his ordination 60 years ago, when «the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way: … He calls me his friend.»

Benedict XVI celebrated a three-hour Mass for the feast of St. Peter and Paul, speaking openly about his experience of priesthood during the homily.

Joseph Ratzinger and his brother, Georg, were ordained on this day in 1951, with more than 40 other candidates.

«‘Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos’ — I no longer call you servants, but friends — 60 years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice,» the Holy Father said.

«I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. … He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way,» he added.

The Pontiff proposed «no longer servants, but friends» as the «entire program of a priestly life.»

«Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing,» he said. «He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better. … Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself.»

Benedict XVI’s preaching became prayer at moments as he asked, «Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.»

Festivity and adversity

Known for his pedagogical skill at providing deep insights even to common themes, the Pope reflected on the priesthood with the image of wine.

«For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night,» he said. «For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavors, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests?

«We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel.»

«In hindsight,» the Pope said, «we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.»

«Sixty years of priestly ministry — dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this,» the Holy Father said, offering his second apology for the length of his reflection. «But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is.

«Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32967?l=english

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