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Posted March 28, 2007

Book: The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His central writings and speeches
Authors: John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne
HarperCollins. San Francisco, CA. 2007. Pp. 449

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment as pontiff after the death of John Paul II has been heralded by conservatives and held in suspicion by liberals, but what will define Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure as the leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide? This one volume presents the Pope’s essential views on key issues of current interest. Drawn from his recent homilies, interviews, official Church documents, and his many books, this collection lays out Benedict’s thinking and how it relates to Christian values, birth control, and abortion, sexual misconduct in the priesthood, ordination of women, anti-Semitism and the Catholic Church, Christian relations with Islam, as well as ecumenism and interfaith dialogue.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Priesthood

Basis of New Testament Ministry:

The Apostolate as Participation in Christ’s Mission

We must acknowledge the novelty of the New Testament to understand the Gospel as gospel, as Good News, but it is also necessary to learn to perceive properly the unity of salvation history as it progresses in the Old and New Covenants. In its very novelty, the message of Christ and his works together fulfill everything that went before and form a visible center that brings God’s action and us together. If we seek the true novelty of the New Testament, Christ himself stands before us. This novelty consists not so much in new ideas or conceptions — the novelty is a person, God, who becomes man and draws human beings to himself.

Even the question regarding what the New Testament has to say about priesthood should begin with Christology. The so-called Liberal Age interpreted the figure of Christ on the basis of its own presuppositions. According to its interpretation, Jesus set up pure ethics in opposition to ritually distorted religion; to communal and collective religion he contrasted the freedom and responsibility of the individual person. He himself is portrayed as the great teacher of morals who frees man frm the bonds of cult and of rite and without other mediations sets him before God alone with his personal conscience. In the second half of our century, such views have become wedded to the ideas diffused by Marx: Christ is now describe as a revolutionary who sets himself against the power of institutions that lead people into slavery and in this conflict — primarily against the arrogance of the priests — he dies. In this way, he is seen primarily as the liberator of the poor from the oppression of the rich, one who wants to establish the “kingdom” that is, the new society of the free and equal.

The image of Christ that we encounter in the Bible is a very different one. It is clear that we can consider here only those elements that immediately pertain to our problem. The essential factor in the image of Christ handed down by the writings of the New Testament consists in his unique relationship with God. Jesus knows that he has a direct mission from God; God’s authority is at work in him. (Cf. Mt 7:29, 21:25; Mk 1:27, 11:28; Lk 20-2, 24-19, etc.). he proclaims a message that he has received from the Father: He has been “sent” with an office entrusted to him by the Father.

The Evangelist John clearly presents this theme of the “mission” of he Son who proceeds from the Father — a theme that is always present however, even in the so-called Synopitic Gospels. A “paradoxical” moment of this mission clearly appears in the formula of John that Augustine so profoundly interpreted: “My doctrine is not mine . . .” (7:16). Jesus has nothing of his own except the Father. His doctrine is not his own, because his for the entire existence he is, as it were, Son frm the Father and directed toward the Father. Bu for the same reason, because he has nothing of his own, everything that the Father has belongs to him as well: “I and the Father are one” (10:30). The giving back of his whole existence and activity to the Father, an act through which he did not seek his own will (5:30), made him credible, because the word of the Father shone through him like light. Here the mystery of the divine Trinity shines forth, which is also the model for our own existence.

Only from this Christological center can we understand the ministry of the apostles to which the priesthood of Christ’s church traces its origin. Toward the beginning of his public life, Jesus created the new figure of twelve chosen men, a figure that is continued after the Resurrection in the ministry of the apostles – that is, of the ones sent. Of great importance for our question is the fact that Jesus gave his power to the apostles in such a way that he made their ministry, as it were, a continuation of his own mission. “He who receives you receive me,” he himself say to the Twelve. Many other texts in which Jesus gives his power to the disciples could here be cited: Mt 9:8, 10-1, 21-23; Mk 8-7, 13-34; Lk 4:6, 9:1, 10:19. The continuity between the mission of Jesus and that of the apostles is once again illustrated with great clarity in the Fourth Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

The weight of this sentence is evident if we recall what we said above concerning the structure of the mission of Jesus. As we saw, Jesus himself, sent in the totality of his person, is indeed mission and relation from the Father and to the Father. In this light, the great importance of the following parallelism appears: “The Son can do nothing of His own accord” (Jn 5:19-30).

Table of Contents:

Part One: Sermons and addresses

Part Two: The Church

Part Three: Liturgy

Part Four: Theology

Part Five: Scripture

Part Six: The Priesthood

Part Seven: Christian morality

Part Eight: God is love