3 May 2020 | Library of the Apostolic Palace
The fourth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate today, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Gospel says that: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3). The Lord calls us by name, He calls us because he loves us. However, the Gospel says, there are other voices, that are not to be followed: those of strangers, thieves and brigands who mean harm to the sheep.
These different voices resonate within us. There is the voice of God, who speaks kindly to the conscience, and there is the tempting voice that leads to evil. How can we recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief, how can we distinguish the inspiration of God from the suggestion of the evil one? One can learn to discern these two voices: they speak two different languages, that is, they have opposite ways of knocking on [the door of] our hearts. They speak different languages. Just as we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the evil one.
The voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, He does not impose himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient. At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. God’s voice is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of the evil one leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.
Another difference: the voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past — the enemy does not want the present — it brings to surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, … many bad memories. On the other hand, the voice of God speaks in the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can forego the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.
Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. The one that comes from God will be: “What is good for me?”. Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?”. What do I feel: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like a child’s tantrums: everything, and now. The voice of God, however, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego in order to find the true, good peace. Let us remember: evil never brings peace. First it causes frenzy, and then it leaves bitterness. This is the style of evil.
Lastly, God’s voice and that of the tempter, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency. The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no one understands and listens to you, do not be trusting!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others. Dear brothers and sisters, during this time many thoughts and worries lead us to turn inwards into ourselves. Let us pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let us ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognise and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel, guide and accompany our discernment.
SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Pope Benedict XVI
15 May 2011 | Saint Peter Square
The Liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter presents to us one of the most beautiful images that has portrayed the Lord Jesus since the earliest centuries of the Church: the Good Shepherd. The Gospel of St John, in chapter 10, describes the special features of the relationship between Christ the Good Shepherd and his flock, a relationship so close that no one will ever be able to snatch sheep from his hand. Indeed, the sheep are united to him by a bond of love and of reciprocal knowledge, which guarantees to them the immeasurable gift of eternal life.
At the same time, the flock’s attitude to the Good Shepherd, Christ, is presented by the Evangelist with two specific verbs: “to listen” and “to follow”. These terms suggest the fundamental characteristics of those who live out the following of the Lord.
First of all by listening to his word, from which faith is born and by which it is nurtured. Only those who are attentive to the Lord’s voice can assess in their own conscience the right decisions for acting in accordance with God. Thus the following of Jesusderives from listening: we act as disciples only after hearing and inwardly accepting the Master’s teachings in order to put them into practice every day.
On this Sunday, therefore, it comes naturally to remember to God the pastors of the Church and those who are training to become pastors. I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for the bishops – including the Bishop of Rome! – for the parish priests, for all those who have responsibilities in the guidance of Christ’s flock, so that they may be faithful and wise in carrying out their ministry. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, so that effective workers in the Lord’s harvest may never be lacking.
Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations. My Predecessor’s felicitous insight was based on the conviction that vocations grow and mature in the particular Churches, facilitated by a healthy family background and fortified by a spirit of faith, charity and devotion.
In the Message I sent for this World Day, I stressed that a vocation is fulfilled when they “leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it” (dated 15 November 2010).
In these times too, in which the Lord’s voice risks being drowned by so many other voices, every ecclesial community is called to promote and to care for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. Men and women in fact always need God, also in our technological world, and there will always be a need for Pastors who proclaim his Word and bring them to encounter the Lord in the sacraments.
SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
St. Pope John Paul II
23 April 1999 | On the ordination of 31 new priests
1. “I am the Good Shepherd …; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Gospel Acclamation).
As we continue our journey through the liturgical season of Easter, today we celebrate what is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. Jesus applies to himself this image (cf. Jn 10:6), rooted in the Old Testament and very dear to Christian tradition. Christ is the Good Shepherd who, by dying on the Cross, lays down his life for his sheep. Thus a profound communion is established between the Good Shepherd and his flock. Jesus, according to the Evangelist, “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (Jn 10:3-4). Sheep and Shepherd are united by long familiarity, real knowledge and mutual attachment: he takes care of them; they trust him and follow him faithfully.
How comforting, then, are the words we have just repeated in the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Jn 10:3-4).
2. Continuing a beautiful custom, for several years I have had the joy of ordaining new priests precisely on Good Shepherd Sunday. Today there are 31 of them. They will dedicate their enthusiasm and fresh energies to the service of the community of Rome and the universal Church.
Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, the priests of the Diocese and everyone here, I thank the Lord for this great gift. In a particular way, dear ordinands, I share your joy and that of your teachers, your families and all the friends who have gathered round you at this deeply emotional moment which will leave you with a profound and lifelong memory.
In mentioning your teachers, my thoughts at this time turn to Bishop Plinio Pascoli, whom the Lord called to himself a few days ago. He was rector of the Roman Seminary for many years and then Auxiliary Bishop, dedicating his long life to the care of vocations and the formation of priests. May his example be a further incentive for everyone to grasp the importance of the gift of priesthood.
3. Dear ordinands, through the ancient and evocative sacramental rite of the laying-on of hands and the prayer of consecration, you will become priests in order to be servants of the Christian people in a new and more profound way, in the image of the Good Shepherd. You will share in Christ’s own mission, scattering freely the seed of God’s word. The Lord has called you to be ministers of his mercy and dispensers of his mysteries.
The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, will be the crystal clear spring that will constantly replenish your priestly spirituality. You will be able to draw from it the inspiration for your daily ministry, apostolic zeal for the work of evangelization and spiritual consolation in the inevitable moments of difficulty and inner struggle. By standing at the altar where the sacrifice of the Cross is renewed, you will increasingly discover the wealth of Christ’s love and learn to express it in your life.
4. Dear friends, it is very significant that you are receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders on this Good Shepherd Sunday, when we are celebrating the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Indeed, throughout history Christ’s mission is extended through the work of the Shepherds to whom he entrusts the care of his flock. As he did with the first disciples, Jesus continues to choose new co-workers to care for his flock through the ministry of the word, the sacraments and the service of charity. A vocation to the priesthood is a great gift and a great mystery. A gift, first of all, of divine benevolence, because it is the fruit of grace. It is also a mystery because a vocation is rooted in the depths of conscience and of human freedom. It starts with a dialogue of love, which day after day moulds the priest’s personality through a formation process begun in the family, continued in the seminary and extended throughout his life. Only through this uninterrupted ascetical and pastoral journey can the priest become a living icon of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gives himself for the flock entrusted to his care.
The words I will address to you in a little while when I give you the offerings for the Eucharistic sacrifice echo in my mind: “Imitate the mystery you celebrate”. Yes, dear ordinands, this mystery you dispense is really Christ himself, who through the communication of the Holy Spirit is the source of holiness and a ceaseless call to sanctification. Imitate this mystery: imitate Christ, be Christ! May each of you be able to say with St Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
5. Dear brothers and sisters who are participating in this celebration! Let us pray that these 31 new priests will be faithful to their mission, that each day they will renew their “yes” to Christ and be a sign of his love for every person. We also ask the Lord, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to inspire generous souls who are ready to dedicate themselves totally to the service of God’s kingdom.
Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, to you we entrust our brothers who are ordained today. With them I entrust the priests of Rome and of the whole world. Mother of Christ and of priests, accompany these sons of yours in their ministry and in their lives.
Praised be Jesus Christ!