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Priestly mission: To make Jesus present

Retired archbishop reflects on priests' role at his 50th anniversary of ordination

Archbishop John C. Favalora recites the eucharistic prayer. At left is Archbishop Thomas Wenski and at right is Archbishop Favalora's Rome classmate, also celebrating 50 years in the priesthood, Msgr. William Hennessey.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop John C. Favalora recites the eucharistic prayer. At left is Archbishop Thomas Wenski and at right is Archbishop Favalora's Rome classmate, also celebrating 50 years in the priesthood, Msgr. William Hennessey.

Archbishop John C. Favalora sits in the cathedra, a symbol of a bishop's authority, during the Mass.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop John C. Favalora sits in the cathedra, a symbol of a bishop's authority, during the Mass.

Following is the homily given by Archbishop John C. Favalora at the Mass marking his 50th anniversary as a priest and his 25th as a bishop. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Favalora, Archbishop Thomas Wenski and the other bishops of Florida on Dec. 6 at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

“Through Him and with Him and in Him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all Glory and Honor is yours, forever and ever. Amen.”

At the conclusion of the eucharistic prayer in a few minutes, the bishops and priests will join me in singing that beautiful doxology. It proclaims at each eucharistic celebration the climax of our worship. Very simply put, it proclaims that Jesus is the source of all our praise of God. Through him and his life we once again gained access to the Father. In him we are reborn, and with him we received pardon, forgiveness, mercy and salvation. In union with the Holy Spirit, Jesus makes us children of God once and for all.

It is the priest at Mass who daily in this doxology reminds God’s people of what Jesus means to us and to the whole world. When the Son of God became flesh, it was through his obedient life among us that satisfaction for the original sin and all of our personal sins was achieved and “man is once again made whole”.

Through the sacrament of the priesthood, our eucharistic thanksgiving forever echoes our gratitude to the Father ever since that first Holy Thursday night. There is no greater act that we humans can perform on earth than to celebrate, each in our own manner, the Eucharistic Banquet. Jesus left this memorial of his passion and death with us as his gift at the Last Supper, not only to remind us of the Father’s great love for each of us but to demonstrate how unselfishly in turn we should love one another.

In designating and directing his chosen apostles to do what he did, he made them the first priests of his new covenant, the eternal covenant with the Father. And he put the responsibility for singing the praises of God daily on earth in the care of his chosen priests in every age, joining our voices with the angels and saints in heaven.

The priest is the one designated to speak and act in Jesus’ name. “This is my body; this is the cup of my blood.” Who would have ever imagined a human person would dare to speak and act in the name of the divine? Yet, that is what we do, my brothers, every day. And it is so easy for us to let it become commonplace. Routine and the distractions of all kinds can allow us to forget that we are acting in “persona Christi.” Yet, we make the infinite act of satisfaction and redemption of the world present here and now. Cardinal Francis George once said at one of the (U.S. bishops’) meetings, “every Mass changes the world.” Think about that. What we are privileged to do changes the world because it proclaims Christ Jesus as its savior until he comes again in glory. Christ present to the world as its Lord and Savior continues to perfect all of creation and to renew the face of the earth.

Priests do many other things besides the Eucharist. There are the other sacraments, the works of justice and peace, the works of community building; these too are among the salvific acts of our Savior Jesus Christ. Our salvation is all about Jesus, from the promise after the fall until his coming in glory. He is truly the Alpha and the Omega. Divine revelation is all about the Father’s love made visible in the Word made flesh who dwelled among us.

As the doxology proclaims, it really is all about Jesus. Life is all about Jesus. Through him, with him and in him, everything the Father wants for us and everything he wants of us is accomplished. It is for that reason that St. Paul boasted that the only thing he preached was Jesus and him crucified. For him life was Jesus, living was all about Jesus, Jesus living in him.

The priestly mission is to make Jesus present in every age. By everything the priest does, he either gives evidence of that or not. But most especially at the Eucharist he proclaims that the world’s salvation from God is in and through Jesus.

What a privileged gift the priesthood is for the world: whether ordained just this year or 50 years ago, as priests we are very special not because of anything we can claim, but because by the mysterious will of God we have been called to do this for our brothers and sisters and for all the world.

Priests come in all sizes, shapes, temperaments, varying degrees of intelligence, affability and energy. And none of that really matters. We are all instruments of God’s grace to make Jesus better known and loved in the world. To do that, we do not need the finest of churches, the most updated of programs, a sizeable budget and ample staffing. The great missionaries had very little of all that. But they understood the mission. They preached Jesus in word and deed and they brought their people to know and love Jesus. If we aren’t accomplishing that, then all the rest is waste and vanity.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has summoned all of us to labor for a new evangelization. Much of our world that once came to know and love Jesus has forgotten or ignored him and now seeks other solutions to today’s modern complexities. Today’s mission is to recall and reintroduce them to Jesus and his ways. The answer to the world’s ills is in rediscovering Jesus, for he came that we all might have life — abundant life! He is the savior we all desire, whether knowingly or unknowingly. The priest’s mission is to keep Jesus present as the only real hope for mankind.

I give thanks today for all of you, my brother priests, and for your fraternal collaboration with me in the Church’s mission in South Florida during my tenure. You have been my strength in good times and in bad — and we have shared both. May you priests, by your personal love and dedication to Jesus and his Church, make him ever more known and loved in the Archdiocese of Miami.

I thank everyone here present who have so lovingly supported and sustained my episcopal ministry among you. The Church is so alive in Miami because you keep Jesus alive and present here.

Today, I give thanks to God for 50 years of priestly ministry. Since that very cold, very rainy December 20 morning in St. Peter’s Basilica — and my jubilarian classmate, Msgr. (William) Hennessey can confirm that — I have had the joy and excitement of striving to make Jesus better known and loved. Despite my own unworthiness and sinfulness, I am so grateful to have been chosen to be a priest and for 25 years to have been selected to share the apostolic office as bishop of Alexandria, bishop of St. Petersburg and as metropolitan archbishop of Miami. I count those many blessings tonight.

Today I add my gratitude to the eternal praise of the Father proclaimed at every celebration of the Eucharist: “Through him, and with Him and in Him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all Glory and Honor is yours forever and ever. Amen.”
From left, bishops who attended the Mass included: Bishop Victor Galeone, retired of St. Augustine: Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo.; Bishop John Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice; Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg; and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

From left, bishops who attended the Mass included: Bishop Victor Galeone, retired of St. Augustine: Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo.; Bishop John Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice; Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg; and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach.

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