Yesterday morning, the Holy Father left Regensburg and travelled by helicopter to the city of Freising which, in the past, was a trading center for the whole of central Europe, and today it is an important hub for agriculture and the food industry. It has a famous university and holds the administrative offices of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising. The archiepiscopal see is in Munich itself.

Benedict XVI’s papal coat-of-arms contains three references to Bavaria, of which two to Freising: a Moor’s head, the traditional symbol of the diocese of Freising, and a bear with a pack saddle, a reference to the bear of St. Corbinian, the eighth-century bishop of Freising who tamed the beast after it attacked him. The pack saddle is meant to represent the burden of the episcopate.

From the heliport of Freising, the Holy Father travelled by car to the city cathedral, built in 1205 and dedicated to Sts. Mary and Corbinian, where he met with priests and permanent deacons. It was here, on June 29, 1951, that Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest. He later taught theology in the diocesan seminary. The meeting with clergy was attended by 30 priests ordained the same day as the pontiff.

The Pope, putting aside the text of his prepared address, limited himself to commenting that text in off-the-cuff remarks.

“This is my last meeting before taking leave of my beloved Bavaria, and I am pleased that it is taking place with you, the priests and permanent deacons, the living and chosen stones of the Church,” reads the text of the Pope’s prepared address. “When I look around this magnificent cathedral of Freising, so many memories come back to me of the years when my journey to the priesthood and the exercise of my ministry were linked to this place.”

The central theme of the Pope’s remarks was the Gospel of St. Matthew, where “Jesus sees in the people gathered around Him the ‘harvest’ of God the Father, ready for reaping.”

“Christ sees the world as ‘God’s field,’ in which a rich harvest is growing and there is need of reapers. … The fundamental approach of Jesus … is one of optimism, based on confidence in the power of the Father, the ‘Lord of the harvest.’ Jesus’ confidence becomes for us a source of hope.”

“A priest’s life and the real nature of his vocation and ministry are contained in the worldview revealed to us by Jesus. This same worldview moved the Lord to go from village to village, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing the sick.”

Underlying the generosity of Christ, Pope Benedict’s prepared address continues, “is a confidence in the power of the Father. … By his progressive assimilation to the sentiments of the Teacher, the priest will come to share in His confident approach. By entering more and more deeply into Jesus’ own way of seeing things, he learns to see all around him as the ‘harvest of God’.”

“Nevertheless, we must always keep in mind the words of our biblical text: it is the ‘Lord of the harvest’ who ‘sends’ laborers into His harvest. Jesus did not give His disciples the task of calling other volunteers or organizing promotional campaigns aimed at gathering new members; He told them to pray to God.”

This does not mean, the Holy Father’s text specifies, that “our vocational work [must] limit itself to prayer. … ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest’ means something more profound: only by remaining in intimate communion with the Lord of the harvest, by living immersed as it were in His heart full of love and compassion for humanity, can we bring other laborers to share in the work of the Kingdom of God.

“Ours is not a mindset of numbers and efficiency,” he adds, “but one of gratuity and self-giving. … The laborers in God’s harvest are those who follow in the footsteps of Christ. This requires self-detachment and being fully ‘attuned’ to His will.”

To this end, we must “undertake an Easter journey of death and resurrection. On this journey Christ has not only gone before us, but He accompanies us,” as he did with Peter who “began to sink while attempting to walk to Jesus on the waters. As long as Peter returned Jesus’ gaze, he was able to walk on the troubled waters of the Sea of Galilee, remaining so to speak within the gravitational field of His grace.”

“Through this Easter journey, the disciple becomes a true witness of the Lord,” writes the Pope, pointing out how St. Augustine “tried to explain the essence of the ordained minister’s task by means of two definitions … ‘servus Christi’ and ‘vox Christi’.”

“The term ‘servant’ implies a concept of relation: to be a servant is to be in relation to a master. To describe the priest as ‘servus Christi’ is to emphasize that his life has an essential ‘relational connotation:’ with every fiber of his being he is in relation to Christ. … By virtue of the sacramental character received at ordination, he belongs to Christ and shares His unreserved dedication to the ‘body’ of the Church.”

As “vox Christi,” a priest “stands in relation to the ‘Word’ who is Christ. The greatness and the humility of the ordained ministry are here revealed. Like St. John the Baptist, the priest and the deacon are merely the precursors, the servants of the Word. It is not they who are at the center, but Christ, Whose ‘voice’ they must be with their whole existence.

“It is from this reflection that the answer emerges to a question that no responsible pastor of souls can fail to ask himself, especially in the current situation of an increasing shortage of priests: how to preserve interior unity amid the often frenetic activity of ministry? The way towards a solution to this problem lies in intimate communion with Christ. … From this emerges a new vision of priestly asceticism. … This asceticism of service, service itself as the true asceticism of my life, is undoubtedly a most important motive that nevertheless requires a constant interior reinterpretation of action based upon being.

“Even if the priest seeks to live out his service as asceticism and his sacramental activity as personal encounter with Christ,” the text of the Pope’s address concludes, “he will still need moments to catch his breath. … Generous self-giving for others is impossible without discipline and constant recovery of true faith-filled interior life. …The time spent in direct encounter with God in prayer can rightly be described as the pastoral priority par excellence: it is the soul’s breath.”

VIS

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