Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The Church as often called today "spy Wednesday" because of the betrayal of Christ one hears made by Judas.
Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 gave a beautiful reflection on Judas Iscariot and St. Matthias (who took his place as bishop).
Here's the reflection:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
On completing today the review of the Twelve Apostles called directly by Jesus during his earthly life, we cannot fail to mention the one who always appears in the last place: Judas Iscariot. We want to associate him with the person who was later chosen to substitute him, namely, Matthias.
The name Judas alone arouses among Christians an instinctive reaction of reprobation and condemnation. The meaning of the name "Iscariot" is controversial: The most used explanation says that it means "man from Queriyyot," in reference to his native village, located in the surroundings of Hebron, mentioned twice in sacred Scripture (cf. Joshua 15:25; Amos 2:2).
Others interpret it as a variation of the term "hired assassin," as if it alluded to a guerrilla armed with a dagger, called "sica" in Latin. Finally, some see in the label the simple transcription of a Hebrew-Aramaic root that means: "He who was going to betray him." This mention is found twice in the fourth Gospel, that is, after a confession of faith by Peter (cf. John 6:71) and later during the anointing at
Bethany (cf. John
Other passages show that the betrayal was underway, saying: "He who betrayed him," as happened during the Last Supper, after the announcement of the betrayal (cf. Matthew 26:25) and later at the moment Jesus was arrested (cf. Matthew 26:46.48; John 18:2.5). However, the lists of the twelve recall the betrayal as something that already occurred: "Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him," says Mark (); Matthew (10:4) and Luke () use equivalent formulas.
The betrayal, as such, took place in two moments: first of all in its planning phase, when Judas comes to an agreement with Jesus' enemies for 30 pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16), and later in its execution with the kiss he gave the master in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:46-50).
Anyway, the evangelists insist that his condition of apostle corresponded fully to him: He is repeatedly called "one of the twelve" (Matthew 26:14.47; Mark 14:10.20; John 6:71) or "of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).
Moreover, on two occasions, Jesus, addressing the apostles and speaking precisely of him, indicates him as "one of you" (Matthew 26:21; Mark ; John 6:70; ). And Peter would say of Judas "he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry" (Acts ).
He is, therefore, a figure belonging to the group of those whom Jesus had chosen as companions and close collaborators. This poses two questions when it comes to explaining what happened. The first consists in asking ourselves how it was possible that Jesus chose this man and trusted him.
In fact, though Judas is the group's administrator (cf. John 12:6b; 13:29a), in reality he is also called "thief" (John 12:6a). The mystery of the choice is even greater, as Jesus utters a very severe judgment on him: "Woe to that man by whom the son of man is betrayed!" (Matthew 26:24).
This mystery is even more profound if one thinks of his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Matthew 27:3-4). Though he departed afterward to hang himself (cf. Matthew 27:5), it is not for us to judge his gesture, putting ourselves in God's place, who is infinitely merciful and just.
A second question affects the motive of Judas' behavior: Why did he betray Jesus? The question raises several theories. Some say it was his greed for money; others give an explanation of a messianic nature: Judas was disappointed on seeing that Jesus did not fit the program of the political-military liberation of his country.
In fact, the Gospel texts insist on another aspect: John says expressly that "the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him" (John 13:2); in the same way, Luke writes: "Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).
In this way, one goes beyond historical motivations, explaining what occurred by basing it on Judas' personal responsibility, who yielded miserably to a temptation of the evil one. In any case, Judas' betrayal continues to be a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Matthew 26:50), but in his invitations to follow him on the path of the beatitudes he did not force his will or prevent him from falling into Satan's temptations, respecting human freedom.
In fact, the possibilities of perversion of the human heart are truly many. The only way to prevent them consists in not cultivating a view of life that is only individualistic, autonomous, but in always placing oneself on the side of Jesus, assuming his point of view.
We must try, day after day, to be in full communion with him. Let us recall that even Peter wanted to oppose him and what awaited him in
Jerusalem, but he received a very
strong rebuke: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God,
but of men" (Mark -33).
After his fall, Peter repented and found forgiveness and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into despair and in this way it became self-destruction. It is an invitation for us to always remember what St. Benedict says at the end of Chapter 5 -- fundamental -- of his Rule: "Never despair of God's mercy." In fact, "God is greater than our hearts," as
says (1 John ).
Let us remember two things. The first: Jesus respects our freedom. The second: Jesus waits for us to have the disposition to repent and to be converted; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness. In fact, when we think of the negative role Judas played, we must frame it in the higher way with which God disposed the events.
His betrayal led to the death of Jesus who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love and in self-giving to the Father (cf. Galatians ; Ephesians 5:2.25). The verb "betray" is the Greek version which means "to give up." At times its subject is also God himself in person: Out of love, he "gave up" Jesus for us all (cf. Romans ). In his mysterious plan of salvation, God assumes Judas' unjustifiable gesture as the motive for the total giving up of the Son for the redemption of the world.
On concluding, we wish to recall also he who, after Easter, was chosen to replace the traitor. In the
, two were put forward
to the community and then lots were cast for their names: "Joseph called
Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts ). Church
Precisely the latter was chosen, and in this way "he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts ). We do not know anything more about him, with the exception that he was a witness of Jesus' public life (cf. Acts -22), being faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was added later the divine call to take Judas' place, as though compensating his betrayal.
We draw a final lesson from here: Although there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to us to counterbalance the evil they do with our limpid testimony of Jesus Christ our lord and savior.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Apostolic Exhortation on the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Pope John Paul II (1992) Part 20
The Church and the Gift of Vocation
35. Every Christian vocation finds its foundation in the gratuitous and prevenient choice made by the Father "who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" (Eph. 1:3-5).
Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God's gift. However, it is never bestowed outside of orindependently of the Church. Instead it always comes about in the Church and through the Church because, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "God has willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness."(97)
The Church not only embraces in herself all the vocations which God gives her along the path to salvation, but she herself appears as a mystery of vocation, a luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. In truth, the Church, a "people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,"(98) carries within her the mystery of the Father, who, being neither called nor sent by anyone (cf. Rom. 11:33-35), calls all to hallow his name and do his will; she guards within herself the mystery of the Son, who is called by the Father and sent to proclaim the kingdom of God to all and who calls all to follow him; and she is the trustee of the mystery of the Holy Spirit, who consecrates for mission those whom the Father calls through his Son Jesus Christ.
The Church, being by her very nature a "vocation," is also a begetter and educator of vocations. This is so because she is a "sacrament," a "sign" and "instrument" in which the vocation of every Christian is reflected and lived out. And she is so in her activity, in the exercise of her ministry of proclaiming the word, in her celebration of the sacraments and in her service and witness to charity.
We can now see the essential dimension of the Christian vocation: Not only does it derive "from" the Church and her mediation, not only does it come to be known and find fulfillment "in" the Church, but it also necessarily appears - in fundamental service to God - as a service "to" the Church. Christian vocation, whatever shape it takes, is a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and to increase the
in the world.(99) kingdom of God
What is true of every vocation is true specifically of the priestly vocation: The latter is a call, by the sacrament of holy orders received in the Church, to place oneself at the service of the People of God with a particular belonging and configuration to Jesus Christ and with the authority of acting "in the name and in the person" of him who is head and shepherd of the Church.
From this point of view, we understand the statement of the synod fathers: "The vocation of each priest exists in the Church and for the Church: Through her this vocation is brought to fulfillment. Hence we can say that every priest receives his vocation from our Lord through the Church as a gracious gift, a grace gratis data (charisma). It is the task of the bishop or the competent superior not only to examine the suitability and the vocation of the candidate but also to recognize it. This ecclesiastical element is inherent in a vocation to the priestly ministry as such. The candidate to the priesthood should receive his vocation not by imposing his own personal conditions, but accepting also the norms and conditions which the Church herself lays down, in the fulfillment of her responsibility."(100)
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Apostolic Exhortation on the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Pope John Paul II (1992) Part 19
COME AND SEE
Priestly Vocation in the Church's Pastoral Work
Priestly Vocation in the Church's Pastoral Work
Seek, Follow, Abide
34. "Come, and see" (Jn. ). This was the reply Jesus gave to the two disciples of John the Baptist who asked him where he was staying. In these words we find the meaning of vocation.
This is how the evangelist relates the call of Andrew and Peter: "The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' Arid they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'Where are you staying?' He said to them, ' Come and see. ' They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
"One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother, Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)" (Jn. -42).
This Gospel passage is one of many in the Bible where the "mystery" of vocation is described, in our case the mystery of the vocation to be apostles of Jesus. This passage of John, which is also significant for the Christian vocation as such, has a particular value with regard to the priestly vocation. As the community of Jesus' disciples, the Church is called to contemplate this scene which in some way is renewed constantly down the ages. The Church is invited to delve more deeply into the original and personal meaning of the call to follow Christ in the priestly ministry and the unbreakable bond between divine grace and human responsibility which is contained and revealed in these two terms which we find more than once in the Gospel: Come follow me (cf. Mt. 19:21). She is asked to discern and to live out he proper dynamism of vocation, its gradual and concrete development in the phases of seeking Christ, finding him and staying with him.
The Church gathers from this "Gospel of vocation" the paradigm, strength and impulse behind her pastoral work of promoting vocations, of her mission to care for the birth, discernment and fostering of vocations, particularly those to the priesthood. By the very fact that "the lack of priests is certainly a sad thing for any Church,"(92) pastoral work for vocations needs especially today, to be taken up with a new vigor and more decisive commitment by all the members of the Church, in the awareness that it is not a secondary or marginal matter, or the business of one group only, as if it were but a "part," no matter how important, of the entire pastoral work of the Church. Rather as the synod fathers frequently repeated, it is an essential part of he overall pastoral work of each Church,(93) a concern which demands to be integrated into and fully identified with the ordinary "care of souls,"(94) a connatural and essential dimension of the Church's pastoral work, of her very life and mission.(95)
Indeed, concern for vocations is a connatural and essential dimension of the Church's pastoral work. The reason for this is that vocation, in a certain sense, defines the very being of the Church, even before her activity. In the Church's very name, ecclesia, we find its deep vocational aspect, for the Church is a "convocation," an assembly of those who have been called: "All those who in faith look toward Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace, God has gathered together and established as the Church, that she may be for each and everyone the visible sacrament of this saving unity."(96)
A genuinely theological assessment of priestly vocation and pastoral work in its regard can only arise from an assessment of the mystery of the Church as a Mysterium vocationis.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Jesuit, 76 years old has become the new Vicar of Christ this evening 13th March 2013. A man of deep humility and simplicity asked for prayers for Benedict XVI and prayer for himself as he now takes on this heavy Cross to lead the Catholic Church in these most turbulent times. As he asked for prayers for himself, a great silence descended on the whole of St. Peters. It was so emotional, a beautiful moment. We pray for our Holy Father and we continue to pray also for Benedict XVI. May the Lord bless and protect them both. Let us also be watchful and discerning and keep our eyes always on the Lord and remember the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and the Sacredness and Beauty of the Holy Mass and the beauty of the Vocation to the Priesthood. Let us pray for all our Priests, Bishops and Cardinals also at this time of change. The Lord is in charge and He will look after us always. Mary Mother of the Church, protect us and our Holy Father and all the Church at this time. Holy Saints and Martyrs pray for us. St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church pray for us.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
On the Adopt a Cardinal website, I was given Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka. Perhaps you can also adopt a cardinal to pray for...go to this website https://adoptacardinal.org/.
He is a wonderful holy man, speaks ten languages and is also very traditional especially regarding the Liturgy which is great. God bless him.
Apostolic Exhortation on the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Pope John Paul II (1992) Part 18
"Renew in Them the Outpouring of Your Spirit of Holiness"
33. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" (Lk. ). Even today Christ makes these words which he proclaimed in the synagogue of
echo in our priestly hearts. Indeed, our faith reveals to us the presence of
the spirit of Christ at work in our being, in our acting and in our living,
just as the sacrament of orders has configured, equipped and molded it.
Yes, the Spirit of the Lord is the principal agent in our spiritual life. He creates our "new heart," inspires it and guides it with the "new law" of love, of pastoral charity. For the development of the spiritual life it is essential to be aware that the priest will never lack the grace of the Holy Spirit as a totally gratuitous gift and as a task which he is called to undertake. Awareness of this gift is the foundation and support of the priest's unflagging trust amid the difficulties, temptations and weaknesses which he will meet along his spiritual path.
Here I would repeat to all priests what I said to so many of them on another occasion: "The priestly vocation is essentially a call to holiness in the form which derives from the sacrament of orders. Holiness is intimacy with God; it is the imitation of Christ, who was poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and a giving of oneself on their behalf and for their true good; it is love for the Church which is holy and wants us to be holy, because this is the mission that Christ entrusted to her. Each one of you should also be holy in order to help your brothers and sisters to pursue their vocation to holiness.
"How can we fail to reflect on...the essential role that the Holy Spirit carries out in this particular call to holiness which is proper to the priestly ministry? Let us remember the words of the rite of priestly ordination which are considered to be central in the sacramental formula: 'Almighty Father, give these your sons the dignity of the priesthood. Renew in them the outpouring of your Spirit of holiness. O Lord, may they fulfill the ministry of the second degree of priesthood received from you, and by their example may they lead all to upright conduct of life.'
"Beloved, through ordination, you have received the same Spirit of Christ, who makes you like him, so that you can act in his name and so that his very mind and heart might live in you. This intimate communion with the Spirit of Christ - while guaranteeing the efficacy of the sacramental actions which you perform in persona Christi - seeks to be expressed in fervent prayer, in integrity of life, in the pastoral charity of a ministry tirelessly spending itself for the salvation of the brethren. In a word, it calls for your personal sanctification."(91)
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Apostolic Exhortation on the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Pope John Paul II (1992) Part 17
Membership in and Dedication to the
31. Like every authentically Christian spiritual life, the spiritual life of the priest has an essential and undeniable ecclesial dimension which is a sharing in the holiness of the Church herself, which we profess in the Creed to be a "communion of saints." The holiness of the Christian has its source in the holiness of the Church; it expresses that holiness and at the same time enriches it. This ecclesial dimension takes on special forms, purposes and meanings in the spiritual life of the priest by virtue of his specific relation to the Church, always as a result of his configuration to Christ the head and shepherd, his ordained ministry and his pastoral charity.
In this perspective, it is necessary to consider the priest's membership in and dedication to a particular Church. These two factors are not the result of purely organizational and disciplinary needs. On the contrary, the priest's relationship with his bishop in the one presbyterate, his sharing in the bishop's ecclesial concern and his devotion to the evangelical care of the People of God in the specific historical and contextual conditions of a particular Church are elements which must be taken into account in sketching the proper configuration of the priest and his spiritual life. In this sense, "incardination" cannot be confined to a purely juridical bond, but also involves a set of attitudes as well as spiritual and pastoral decisions which help to fill out the specific features of the priestly vocation.
The priest needs to be aware that his "being in a particular Church" constitutes by its very nature a significant element in his living a Christian spirituality. In this sense, the priest finds precisely in his belonging to and dedication to the particular Church a wealth of meaning, criteria for discernment and action which shape both his pastoral mission and his spiritual life.
Other insights or reference to other traditions of spiritual life can contribute to the priest's journey toward perfection, for these are capable of enriching the life of individual priests as well as enlivening the presbyterate with precious spiritual gifts. Such is the case with many old and new Church associations which welcome priests into their spiritual family: from societies of apostolic life to priestly secular institutes, and from various forms of spiritual communion and sharing to ecclesial movements. Priests who belong to religious orders and congregations represent a spiritual enrichment for the entire diocesan presbyterate, to which they contribute specific charisms and special ministries, stimulating the particular church by their presence to be more intensely open to the Church throughout the world.(85)
The priest's membership in a particular church and his dedication - even to the gift of his life - to the upbuilding of the Church, "in the person" of Christ the head and shepherd, in service of the entire Christian community and in a generous and filial relationship with the bishop, must be strengthened by every charism which becomes part of his priestly life or surrounds it.(86)
For the abundance of The Spirit's gifts to be welcomed with joy and allowed to bear fruit for the glory of God and the good of the entire Church, each person is required first to have a knowledge and discernment of his or her own charisms and those of others, and always to use these charisms with Christian humility, with firm self - control and with the intention, above all else, to help build up the entire community which each particular charism is meant to serve. Moreover, all are required to make a sincere effort to live in mutual esteem, to respect others and to hold in esteem all the positive and legitimate diversities present in the presbyterate. This too constitutes part of the priest's spiritual life and continual practice of asceticism.
32. Membership in and dedication to a particular church does not limit the activity and life of the presbyterate to that church: A restriction of this sort is not possible, given the very nature both of the particular church(87) and of the priestly ministry. In this regard the Council teaches that "the spiritual gift which priests received at their ordination prepares them not for any limited or narrow mission but for the widest scope of the universal mission of salvation 'to the end of the earth' (Acts 1:8). For every priestly ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles."(88)
It thus follows that the spiritual life of the priest should be profoundly marked by a missionary zeal and dynamism. In the exercise of their ministry and the witness of their lives, priests have the duty to form the community entrusted to them as a truly missionary community. As I wrote in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, "all priests must have the mind and heart of missionaries open to the needs of the Church and the world, with concern for those farthest away and especially for the non - Christian groups in their own area. They should have at heart, in their prayers and particularly at the eucharistic sacrifice, the concern of the whole Church for all of humanity."(89)
If the lives of priests are generously inspired by this missionary spirit, it will be easier to respond to that increasingly serious demand of the Church today which arises from the unequal distribution of the clergy. In this regard, the Council was both quite clear and forceful: "Let priests remember then that they must have at heart the care of all the churches. Hence priests belonging to dioceses which are rich in vocations should show themselves willing and ready, with the permission or at the urging of their own bishop, to exercise their ministry in other regions, missions or activities which suffer from a shortage of clergy."(90)
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Apostolic Exhortation on the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day - Pope John Paul II (1992) Part 16
Priestly Life and the Radicalism of the Gospel
27. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Lk. ). The Holy Spirit poured out in the sacrament of holy orders is a source of holiness and a call to sanctification. This is the case not only because it configures the priest to Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, entrusting him with a prophetic, priestly and royal mission to be carried out in the name and person of Christ, but also because it inspires and enlivens his daily existence, enriching it with gifts and demands, virtues and incentives which are summed up in pastoral charity. This charity is a synthesis which unifies the values and virtues contained in the Gospel and likewise a power which sustains their development toward Christian perfection.(72)
For all Christians without exception, the radicalism of the Gospel represents a fundamental, undeniable demand flowing from the call of Christ to follow and imitate him by virtue of the intimate communion of life with him brought about by the Spirit (cf. Mt. 8:18ff.; 10:37ff.; Mk. 8:34-38; 10:17-21; Lk. 9:57ff.). This same demand is made anew to priests, not only because they are "in" the Church, but because they are "in the forefront" of the Church inasmuch as they are configured to Christ, the head and shepherd. equipped for and committed to the ordained ministry, and inspired by pastoral charity. Within and as a manifestation of the radicalism of the Gospel one can find a blossoming of many virtues and ethical demands which are decisive for the pastoral and spiritual life of the priest, such as faith, humility in relation to the mystery of God, mercy and prudence. A particularly significant expression of the radicalism of the Gospel is seen in the different "evangelical counsels" which Jesus proposes in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt. 5-7), and among them the intimately related counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty.(73) The priest is called to live these counsels in accordance with those ways and, more specifically, those goals and that basic meaning which derive from and express his own priestly identity
28. "Among the virtues most necessary for the priestly ministry must be named that disposition of soul by which priests are always ready to seek not their own will, but the will of him who sent them (cf. Jn. 4:34; 5 :30; 6:38)."(74) It is in the spiritual life of the priest that obedience takes on certain special characteristics.
First of all, obedience is "apostolic" in the sense that it recognizes, loves and serves the Church in her hierarchical structure. Indeed, there can be no genuine priestly ministry except in communion with the supreme pontiff and the episcopal college, especially with one's own diocesan bishop, who deserves that "filial respect and obedience" promised during the rite of ordination. This "submission" to those invested with ecclesial authority is in no way a kind of humiliation. It flows instead from the responsible freedom of the priest who accepts not only the demands of an organized and organic ecclesial life, but also that grace of discernment and responsibility in ecclesial decisions which was assured by Jesus to his apostles and their successors for the sake of faithfully safeguarding the mystery of the Church and serving the structure of the Christian community among its common path toward salvation.
Authentic Christian obedience, when it is properly motivated and lived without servility, helps the priest to exercise in accordance with the Gospel the authority entrusted to him for his work with the People of God: an authority free from authoritarianism or demagoguery. Only the person who knows how to obey in Christian really able to require obedience from others in accordance with the Gospel.
Priestly obedience has also a "community" dimension: It is not the obedience of an individual who alone relates to authority, but rather an obedience which is deeply a part of the unity of the presbyterate, which as such is called to cooperate harmoniously with the bishop and, through him, with Peter's successor.(75)
This aspect of the priest's obedience demands a marked spirit of asceticism, both in the sense of a tendency not to become too bound up in one's own preferences or points of view and in the sense of giving brother priests the opportunity to make good use of their talents, and abilities, setting aside all forms of jealousy, envy and rivalry. Priestly obedience should be one of solidarity, based on belonging to a single presbyterate. Within the presbyterate, this obedience is expressed in co - responsibility regarding directions to be taken and choices to be made.
Finally, priestly obedience has a particular "pastoral" character. It is lived in an atmosphere of constant readiness to allow oneself to be taken up, as it were "consumed," by the needs and demands of the flock. These last ought to be truly reasonable and at times they need to be evaluated and tested to see how genuine they are. But it is undeniable that the priest's life is fully "taken up" by the hunger for the Gospel and for faith, hope and love for God and his mystery, a hunger which is more or less consciously present in the People of God entrusted to him.
29. Referring to the evangelical counsels, the Council states that "preeminent among these counsels is that precious gift of divine grace given to some by the Father (cf. Mt. ; 1 Cor. 7:7) in order more easily to devote themselves to God alone with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. -34) in virginity or celibacy. This perfect continence for love of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign and stimulus of love, and as a singular source of spiritual fertility in the world."(76) In virginity and celibacy, chastity retains its original meaning, that is, of human sexuality lived as a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others. This meaning is fully found in virginity which makes evident, even in the renunciation of marriage, the "nuptial meaning" of the body through a communion and a personal gift to Jesus Christ and his Church which prefigures and anticipates the perfect and final communion and self - giving of the world to come: "In virginity or celibacy, the human being is awaiting, also in a bodily way, the eschatological marriage of Christ with the Church, giving himself or herself completely to the Church in the hope that Christ may give himself to the Church in the full truth of eternal life."(77)
In this light one can more easily understand and appreciate the reasons behind the centuries - old choice which the Western Church has made and maintained - despite all the difficulties and objections raised down the centuries - of conferring the order of presbyter only on men who have given proof that they have been called by God to the gift of chastity in absolute and perpetual celibacy.
The synod fathers clearly and forcefully expressed their thought on this matter in an important proposal which deserves to be quoted here in full: "While in no way interfering with the discipline of the Oriental churches, the synod, in the conviction that perfect chastity in priestly celibacy is a charism, reminds priests that celibacy is a priceless gift of God for the Church and has a prophetic value for the world today. This synod strongly reaffirms what the Latin Church and some Oriental rites require that is, that the priesthood be conferred only on those men who have received from God the gift of the vocation to celibate chastity (without prejudice to the tradition of some Oriental churches and particular cases of married clergy who convert to Catholicism, which are admitted as exceptions in Pope Paul VI's encyclical on priestly celibacy, no. 42). The synod does not wish to leave any doubts in the mind of anyone regarding the Church's firm will to maintain the law that demands perpetual and freely chosen celibacy for present and future candidates for priestly ordination in the Latin rite. The synod would like to see celibacy presented and explained in the fullness of its biblical, theological and spiritual richness, as a precious gift given by God to his Church and as a sign of the kingdom which is not of this world - a sign of God's love for this world and of the undivided love of the priest for God and for God's people, with the result that celibacy is seen as a positive enrichment of the priesthood."(78)
It is especially important that the priest understand the theological motivation of the Church's law on celibacy. Inasmuch as it is a law, it expresses the Church's will, even before the will of the subject expressed by his readiness. But the will of the Church finds its ultimate motivation in the link between celibacy and sacred ordination, which configures the priest to Jesus Christ the head and spouse of the Church. The Church, as the spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her head and spouse loved her. Priestly celibacy, then, is the gift of self in and with Christ to his Church and expresses the priest's service to the Church in and with the Lord.
For an adequate priestly spiritual life, celibacy ought not to be considered and lived as an isolated or purely negative element, but as one aspect of the positive, specific and characteristic approach to being a priest. Leaving father and mother, the priest follows Jesus the good shepherd in an apostolic communion, in the service of the People of God. Celibacy, then, is to be welcomed and continually renewed with a free and loving decision as a priceless gift from God, as an "incentive to pastoral charity "(79) as a singular sharing in God's fatherhood and in the fruitfulness of the Church, and as a witness to the world of the eschatological kingdom. To put into practice all the moral, pastoral and spiritual demands of priestly celibacy it is absolutely necessary that the priest pray humbly and trustingly, as the Council points out: "In the world today, many people call perfect continence impossible. The more they do so, the more humbly and perseveringly priests should join with the Church in praying for the grace of fidelity. It is never denied to those who ask. At the same time let priests make use of all the supernatural and natural helps which are now available to all."(80) Once again it is prayer, together with the Church's sacraments and ascetical practice, which will provide hope in difficulties, forgiveness in failings, and confidence and courage in resuming the journey.
30. On the subject of evangelical poverty, the synod fathers gave a concise yet important description, presenting it as "the subjection of all goods to the supreme good of God and his kingdom.(81) In reality, only the person who contemplates and lives the mystery of God as the one and supreme good, as the true and definitive treasure, can understand and practice poverty, which is certainly not a matter of despising or rejecting material goods but of a loving and responsible use of these goods and at the same time an ability to renounce them with great interior freedom - that is, with reference to God and his plan.
Poverty for the priest, by virtue of his sacramental configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, takes on specific "pastoral" connotations which the synod fathers took up from the Council's teachings and further developed. Among other things, they wrote: "Priests, following the example of Christ, who, rich though he was, became poor for love of us (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9) - should consider the poor and the weakest as people entrusted in a special way to them, and they should be capable of witnessing to poverty with a simple and austere lifestyle, having learned the generous renunciation of superfluous things(Optatam Totius, 9; Code of Canon Law, Canon 282)."(83)
It is true that "the workman deserves his wages" (Lk. 10:7) and that "the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14), but it is no less true that this right of the apostle can in no way be confused with attempts of any kind to condition service to the Gospel and the Church upon the advantages and interests which can derive from it. Poverty alone ensures that the priest remains available to be sent wherever his work will be most useful and needed even at the cost of personal sacrifice. It is a condition and essential premise of the apostle's docility to the Spirit, making him ready to "go forth," without traveling bag or personalities, following only the will of the Master(cf. Lk. 9:57-62; Mk. 10:17-22).
Being personally involved in the life of the community and being responsible for it, the priest should also offer the witness of a total "honesty" in the administration of the goods of the community, which he will never treat as if they were his own property, but rather something for which he will be held accountable by God and his brothers and sisters, especially the poor. Moreover, his awareness of belonging to the one presbyterate will be an incentive for the priest to commit himself to promoting both a more equitable distribution of goods among his fellow priests and a certain common use of goods (cf. Acts 2:42-47).
The interior freedom which is safeguarded and nourished by evangelical poverty will help the priest to stand beside the underprivileged; to practice solidarity with their efforts to create a more just society; to be more sensitive and capable of understanding and discerning realities involving the economic and social aspects of life; and to promote a preferential option for the poor. The latter, while excluding no one from the proclamation and gift of salvation, will assist him in gently approaching the poor, sinners and all those on the margins of society, following the model given by Jesus in carrying out his prophetic and priestly ministry (cf. Lk. 4:18).
Nor should the prophetic significance of priestly poverty be forgotten, so urgently needed in affluent and consumeristic societies: "A truly poor priest is indeed a specific sign of separation from, disavowal of and non - submission to the tyranny of a contemporary world which puts all its trust in money and in material security."(84)
Jesus Christ, who brought his pastoral charity to perfection on the cross with a complete exterior and interior emptying of self, is both the model and source of the virtues of obedience, chastity and poverty which the priest is called to live out as an expression of his pastoral charity for his brothers and sisters. In accordance with St. Paul's words to the Christians at Philippi, the priest should have "the mind which was in Christ Jesus," emptying himself of his own "self," so as to discover, in a charity which is obedient, chaste and poor, the royal road of union with God and unity with his brothers and sisters (cf. Phil. 2:5).