Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every year the Chrism Mass exhorts us to enter into that “yes” to God’s call, which we pronounced on the day of our priestly ordination. “Adsum - here I am!”, we have said like Isaiah, when he heard God’s voice asking: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” “Here am I! Send me”, Isaiah responded (Is 6:8). Then the Lord himself, through the hands of the Bishop, placed his hands on us and we gave ourselves to his mission. Subsequently, we have followed many ways in the range of his call. Can we always affirm what Paul wrote to the Corinthians after years of Gospel service, often marked by fatigue and suffering of every type: “Our zeal has not slackened in this ministry which has been entrusted to us by God’s mercy” (cf. IICor 4:1)? “Our zeal has not slackened”. Let us pray on this day that it may always be kindled anew, that it may be ever nourished by the living flame of the Gospel.

At the same time Holy Thursday is an occasion for us to ask ourselves over and over again: to what did we say our “yes”? What does this “being a priest of Jesus Christ” mean? The Second Canon of our Missal, which was probably compiled in Rome already at the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words with which, in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:5, 7), the essence of the Old Testament priesthood is described: astare coram te et tibi ministrare [“to stand and minister in the name of the Lord”]. There are therefore two duties that define the essence of the priestly ministry: in the first place, “to stand in his [the Lord’s] presence”. In the Book of Deuteronomy this is read in the context of the preceding disposition, according to which priests do not receive any portion of land in the Holy Land - they live of God and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary to sustain daily life. Their profession was to “stand in the Lord’s presence” - to look to him, to be there for him. Hence, ultimately, the word indicated a life in God’s presence, and with this also a ministry of representing others. As the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze on him. Now if this word is found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entrance of the Lord in the assembly of prayer, then for us this points to being before the Lord present, that is, it indicates the Eucharist as the centre of priestly life. But here too, the meaning is deeper.