On the occasion of the Mass for Vocations at the Pantheon. 26 January 2018. Sermon by Father Matthew Raffray, IBP:
Dear brothers, dear seminarians, dear Roman students!
First of all, I would like to thank Monsignor Daniele Michelletti, Apostolic Protonotary, and archpriest rector of this collegiate Basilica of St. Mary of the Martyrs, for his warm welcome today in this beautiful church!
“What I tell you in the darkness, say it in full light, and that which is whispered in your ear preach it on the rooftops.” (Mt 10, 27)
Dear friends, what is it that God has whispered in our ear? What is this secret that we must preach on the rooftops, this word that, above all, we priests, seminarians, religious, carry throughout the whole world, to enlighten men? This secret is none other than Jesus Christ himself: the eternal son of God, made man to free us from evil and to lead us to the light of eternity! This is what God told us in the intimacy of our prayer, in the secret of our priestly vocation, when he chose us and called us to be his disciples and missionaries in all parts of the world.
In fact, you who study here in Rome, in the Pontifical Universities, you who will be tomorrow’s priests, ask yourselves, honestly, how to speak of God to the people of today, especially to the young, who often no longer have any interest in the things of religion. The secret is simple: you must – we must – be more and more like Jesus Christ: this is the way to speak to all people. The poor, the miserable, the sinners wait for the words of Jesus, the grace of God, the sacraments of the Church: behold, this is salvation, the only salvation, which God has revealed to us in his divine Son, this is the way, the only way to heaven that the world waits in anticipation to hear, from the men of the Church. Therefore it is only our fidelity to Christ that will convert the world! It is not our personal discourses or arguments, our beautiful words, nor our good feelings, our humanism, which will change the world, but it will be only the truth and charity taught to us by Jesus himself! This is the only force capable of changing souls, of transforming hearts, to reconcile men with their Creator!
To be more and more like Jesus Christ means, first of all, our fidelity to the Magisterium of his Church, our fidelity to the secular and immutable teaching transmitted to us by the Roman Catholic Church through the centuries. There is no need for newness, there is no need for change or revolution: there is a need to rediscover trust, faith in the word of God, faith in the sure and infallible teaching of the Church, faith in the theological and moral doctrines that the Church has always taught, without fearing the fury of its enemies. But this fidelity means, on the part of priests, a great generosity, a generosity without limits, a clear will to follow Jesus ourselves in the total gift of himself.
In fact, being like Jesus Christ also means being willing to follow him on the way of the Cross. There is no priesthood, there is nothing sacred in the world, without sacrifice. There is no sense to the priestly life without commitment to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! There is no meaning to the priestly life without love for the mystery of the Holy Mass, in which the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the redeemer is renewed and made present. And, therefor, our duty as priests today is: to put the Cross of Jesus back in the center of the world, to put the dignified and holy celebration of Holy Mass at the center of Christian life, to put at the center of our life the redeeming sacrifice of He who loved us to the end! And rightly today we celebrate the feast of the blessed martyr and Pope Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna during the second century, a beloved disciple of St. John, who presents us with his own martyrdom as a perfect realization of the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ: as the Lord becomes bread in the Eucharist and offers himself for the life and salvation of man, so the martyr conforms fully to the Lord’s gift by offering his own life to continue the saving work of Jesus.
Dear friends, in this very sacred basilica, “St. Maria ad Martyres “, dedicated to all martyrs and all the saints, we have found ourselves in the heart of the eternal city, in the heart of the Catholic Church, close to the Holy Father, surrounded by the sacred relics of hundreds of saints, who call us to be the saints of tomorrow!
Dear priests, seminarians and brothers in Christ, you are the future of the Church, you who love our Catholic doctrine without compromise, you who love the Tridentine Mass in order to strive always to become more similar to Christ! Don’t let the enemies of Christ and the Church ruin this calling that Jesus Himself whispered in your ear. It is He who is calling you now to preach on the rooftops to all the world, in the full light of day and by the power of Christ, the joy of the Gospel, the joy of Truth.
In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.