9th October 2014
Bl. John Henry
the Silver Jubilee of Priesthood of FatherXavier Perrin
2 Tim 4: 1-5
Jn 15: 9-17
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: abide in my love.” (Jn
What a marvellous summary of the Gospel! The Gospel is the movement of
Love which originates from the Father, goes through Jesus, and finally reaches
us. In turn, we are enabled to reach God with the love He Himself gave to us.
When we get into this movement by faith and baptism, all is done on
God’s side. As the Father loved His only begotten Son, so the Son loved us. The
Creation, Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection, Ascension and Second coming are
moments of the same and unique act of the eternal love of the Father generating
His Son. When the Son is exalted on the Cross, all are able to know that He
loves His Father and does what His Father commanded Him (Jn 14:31). All can be
sure that the Father “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”
(Jn 3:16). All is done.
The Mass teaches us and makes present and efficient for us the complete
action of God, all that God has done for the salvation of man. The priest’s
main task is to perform the sacramental actions by which Christ’s sacrifice,
continually offered to the Father “on the altar on high”, is manifested and
offered on earth, today, for this community and for the whole Church. The Mass
tells us precisely that: the Father has loved the Son, and the Son has loved
us. The mission of the priest consists mainly in witnessing to this very truth:
Jesus has loved you, He has loved everybody. The priest shows us Jesus’s Cross,
the sign and the proof of His love. On the Cross, Jesus gave Himself up for us
in order to express to us the eternal love by which He loved us, created us,
redeemed us, and called us to sit with Him on His throne provided we accept to
follow Him to His cross.
Would that the priest himself were wholly seized by Jesus’s love! Would
that his heart were burning with the flame of love which comes from Jesus, with
the fire of love that is to enkindle the whole world! In the quiet and
simplicity of contemplative life as well as in the whirlwind of intense
pastoral ministry, one single thing is expected from the priest: that he be
burning with divine love.
Obviously the priest will have to be a man of prayer, asking from God
the great gift of charity. And of course, this love will be given to him by God
who called him. Often, love is given in prayer itself or during the celebration
of the divine mysteries. But the priest finds charity also in the heart of the
Christian community, among the faithful to whom he is ministering. The quality
of charity within the community draws the priest himself to a deeper love of
Christ and to a more profound commitment to the mysteries he celebrates.
Between the priest and the community, there is a dialogue of charity, a
constant and mutual support. The priest is father in love of the community
entrusted to him. But the community too can be called mother of the priest by
its love for Christ.
A community of charity like yours, dear Sisters, is a source of love for
the heart of many priests: not only those who have the privilege to say mass in
your church, but for many others whose love is sustained and fostered by the
gift you make of yourself to God’s loving will in your life of obedience,
charity, work and liturgical celebration.
As a priest, I am happy to thank you for being the “heart of the
Church”, as Little Thérèse famously said, she who somehow presided at my
ordination and first mass – the first on the anniversary of her death and the
second on her liturgical feast-day. Let us listen to her words:
“The vocation of
a Priest! With what love, my Jesus, would I bear you in my hand, when my words
brought you down from Heaven! With what love would I give you
to souls!” That is for me.
“I knew that the
Church has a heart, that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone
which gives life to its members. I knew that if this love were extinguished,
the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to
shed their blood.” That is for you.
that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches
out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it
is eternal.” That is for us all, because “as the Father has loved us”, so Jesus
loved us too. His love is the place where we wish to abide for ever.