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Christianity Is a Relationship, Not Rules, Pope Tells Seminarians

ROME (CNS) -- Christianity is not a set of moral rules, but a path to a relationship with God, who is love, Pope Benedict XVI told 190 seminarians studying at seminaries run by the Diocese of Rome. Christians are not so much called to obedience as to accepting God's love in Jesus and acting in a way that demonstrates how God's love has transformed them. the pope said Feb. 12 during his evening visit to Rome's major seminary.

            Pope Benedict led the students from five seminaries in "lectio divina," a prayerful reading of a Gospel passage. Without using a prepared text, the pope offered the students a long meditation on the passage from the Gospel of John, and then he joined them for dinner.

When Jesus told his disciples that they were not his servants, but his friends, the pope said, he was highlighting the fact that they were not called to a blind obedience of rules, but to a relationship in which his will would become their will and his love their love.

 

"For us human beings, power is always identified with the ability to destroy, to do evil But the real meaning of omnipotence, which appears in Christ, is exactly the opposite the pope said. In Christ, people see that God loved his human creatures to the point of suffering for them.

 

Jesus also promised his disciples that whatever they asked of God, they would obtain, the pope said. The normal human reaction is "but, no, Lord, that's not true," he said, and people can point to the prayers of a mother for a dying child, who dies despite the prayers, or all sorts of sincere requests for good things that don't appear to be answered. The one thing God always gives in response to a prayer is his love and his joy,  the pope said.

 

"Prayer is a journey, I would say a climb," he told the seminarians. "We increasingly must learn what things we should pray for and what things we shouldn't pray for because they are expressions of our selfishness. I cannot pray for things that will harm others. I cannot pray for things that add to my selfishness or pride. In this way, before God, prayer becomes a process of purifying our thoughts and desires."

Copyrighr {c) 20m Catholic News Service www.CatboIicNews.C<Im. Reprinted witb.permission ofCNS

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“Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission
entrusted by Christ to his apostles [and their successors] continues
to be exercised in the Church until the end of time.” Thus, it is the
sacrament of apostolic ministry: “The mission of the Apostles,
which the Lord Jesus continues to entrust to the Pastors of his people,
is a true service, significantly referred to in Sacred Scripture as
‘diakonia,’ namely, service or ministry.” This diakonia “is exercised
on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called
bishops, priests and deacons.” “The ordained ministries, apart from
the persons who receive them, are a grace for the entire Church.”

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, taking seriously
the role of the deacon to which St. Paul refers in his first letter to
Timothy, remind us that “those who serve well as deacons gain good
standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.” It was
for serious pastoral and theological reasons that the Council decided
to reestablish the Order of Deacons as a permanent rank in the
hierarchy of the Church.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders marks deacons “with an
imprint (‘character’) which cannot be removed and which configures
them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.”
For this level of Holy Orders, Christ calls and the Church asks the
bishop to ordain deacons to be consecrated witnesses to service. In
his post-synodal exhortation The Church in America, Pope John Paul
II makes his own the words of the bishops of that gathering: “We see
with joy how deacons ‘sustained by the grace of the Sacrament, in
the ministry (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the word and of charity are
at the service of the People of God, in communion with the Bishop and his priests.

                (Excerpted from the National Directory for Deacons)

Lord, source of all holiness, draw bishops, priests and deacons closer to Christ through the Eucharistic mystery, may they grow daily in the grace of their ordination.

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