On the Good Sheperd

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address to the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square before and after the recitation of the Regina Caeli today. 

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

The fourth Sunday of the Easter Season is characterized by the Gospel of the Good Shepherd that we read every year. Today’s passage cites these words of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they know me and follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (John 10:27-30). These 4 verses contain Jesus’ whole message, the central nucleus of his Gospel: he calls us to participate in his relationship with the Father, and this is eternal life.

Jesus wants to establish a relationship with his friends that is the reflection of the one he himself has with the Father: a relation of mutual belonging in total confidence, in intimate communion. Jesus uses the image of the shepherd and his sheep to express this profound shared understanding, this relationship of friendship. The shepherd calls his sheep and they recognize his voice, they respond to his call and follow him. This is a beautiful parable! The mystery of the voice is suggestive: we think about how from our mother’s womb we learn to recognize her voice and our father’s voice; from the tone of someone’s voice we can perceive love or scorn, affection or coldness. Jesus’s voice is unique! If we learn to distinguish it from others, he will lead us along the path of life, a path that stretches even beyond death.

But Jesus at a certain point says, referring to his sheep: “My Father, who gave them to me…” (John 10:29). This is very important, it is a profound mystery, it is not easy to understand: if I feel attracted by Jesus, if his voice warms my heart, it is thanks to God the Father, who has placed in me the desire for love, for truth, for life, for beauty… and Jesus is all of this in its fullness! This helps us to understand the mystery of vocation, especially of calls to a special consecration. Sometimes Jesus calls us, invites us to follow him, but perhaps it occurs that we do not realize that it is him, as happened to the young Samuel. There are many young people here today in the piazza. There are a lot of you, no? We see… Aha! There are many young people here today in the piazza. I would like to ask you: Have you heard the Lord’s voice at some time in a desire, in upheaval, invite you to follow him more closely? Have you heard it? I can’t hear you. Okay… Have you wanted to be apostles of Jesus? Youth must be placed at the service of great ideals. Do you think so? Do you agree? Ask Jesus what he wants of you and be courageous! Be courageous! Ask him! Behind and prior to every vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life there is always someone’s powerful and intense prayer: a grandmother’s, a grandfather’s, a mother’s, a father’s, a community’s… This is why Jesus said: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest,” that is, God the Father, “that he might send workers for the harvest!” (Matthew 9:38). Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only in prayer can they persevere and bear fruit. I would like to underscore this today, which is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Let us pray in particular for the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I had the joy to ordain this morning. And let us invoke Mary’s intercession. Today there were 10 young men who said “Yes” to Jesus and were ordained priests this morning… This is beautiful! Let us invoke Mary’s intercession, she who is the Woman of “Yes.” Mary said “Yes” her whole life! She learned to recognize Jesus’ voice from the time she carried him in her womb. Mary our Mother, help us to recognize Jesus’ voice always better and to follow it to walk along the path of life! Thank you.

Thanks so much for the greeting, but greet Jesus too. Cry out “Jesus,” loudly… Let us all pray together to Our Lady.

[Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli the Holy Father made the following remarks:]

I am attentively following the events unfolding in Venezuela. I follow them with much concern, with intense prayer and with the hope that just and peaceful means are sought to get through this time of grave difficulty that the country is experiencing. I invite the dear Venezuelan people, in a special way institutional leaders and politicians, firmly to reject any sort of violence and to establish dialogue based upon truth in mutual respect, in pursuit of the common good and in love for the nation. I call upon believers to pray and to work for reconciliation and peace. Let us join together in a prayer full of hope for Venezuela, placing her in the hands of Our Lady of Coromoto.

My thoughts also go out to those affected by the earthquake in southwest continental China. Let us pray for the victims and for those who are suffering because of this violent quake.

This afternoon in Sondrio, Italy Don Nicolò Rusca will be proclaimed blessed. He was a Valtellinese priest who lived sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was an exemplary parish priest in Sondrio and was killed during the political and religious struggles of that tormented Europe at that time. Let us praise the Lord for his witness!

[Concluding, the Holy Father said:]

Have a good Sunday and a good lunch!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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