Monday, May 15, 2017
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the ordination Mass for nine new archdiocesan priests, which took place at St. Mary Cathedral on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 2017.
Today, we gather with great joy for the ordination of nine men for service as priests here in the Archdiocese of Miami. We also celebrate the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to the shepherd children of Fatima. So the ordination of these nine men is an early "Mother's Day" gift to her — but also to the mothers of these men. We thank the parents and siblings of these soon-to-be-priests for the gift of their sons and brothers and their support of them on their vocational journeys.
Of course, the mothers of these men perhaps can identify with Mary in today's Gospel reading for, when their sons first told them of the intentions to pursue the priesthood and a life of service to God and his Church, I am sure that they might have reacted as Mary did when, after searching for three days, she and Joseph found the boy Jesus teaching in the temple. She said to him: "Son, why have you done this to us?"
With the help of Mary’s prayers and your prayers, these men will be happy, faithful and faith-filled priests and zealous pastors of souls, shepherds after the heart of Christ. Don’t doubt the power of Mary’s intercession for her priests. She advocates for us – and she protects us. Remember on this date in 1981, Pope Saint John Paul II survived an assassination attempt — Our Lady of Fatima protected him, saving his life and his papacy. She will do no less for you if you ask her.
Brothers, today we all share your joy as you make your own the words of Mary’s Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”
When your names were called, you responded “Present.” Like Isaiah who heard the Lord’s voice asking, “Whom shall I send; who will go for us?” You answered, “Here am I, send me.”
Just as Jesus was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, the nine of you, by your ordination to the sacred priesthood, are sent to preach the Gospel, to sustain God’s people, and to celebrate the liturgy, above all, the Lord’s sacrifice.
I — and indeed, the entire Church of Miami — thank you for saying “yes” to the call. We all also are grateful for all those who have helped you to discern the call and to respond to it generously — your parents and your family and friends, the priests who have encouraged you, our diocesan director, Father Elvis Gonzalez, and the seminary rectors, faculty and administration charged with your formation.
To what have you said “yes” to? What does “being a priest of Jesus Christ” mean? In the Second Eucharistic Prayer, just after the consecration, the priest celebrant prays: “We offer you, Lord, the Bread of Life and chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.” These words, taken from an Old Testament text, describe the essence of our priestly ministry: We are to stand in the Lord’s presence and we are to serve him.
As priests, the Eucharist — which you are to celebrate daily — is the center of our priestly life. Through your words, especially the words of consecration, you invite Jesus into the assembly of prayer. Daily, you are called to be in his presence. Certainly, liturgy is the central duty of a priest — and this means that prayer must be a primary reality in your life so that your celebration of Mass or the sacraments reflects your own interior participation.
Your whole life, then, must be lived in the presence of the Lord. You must look to him and be there for him. You must live with your gaze on him so as to keep the world open to God.
You stand with the Lord; but you also stand for him — for it is not our word or ourselves that we preach but Christ’s word, Christ’s person. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, not my will but your will be done.” You promise obedience to your bishop. In a real way, this promise gives you the freedom to be truly a man for others; this promise allows you to enter into God’s will, into God’s plan, and witness that what you believe, teach or speak you do so in communion with the entire Catholic and apostolic Church.
The priest must be an upright person, vigilant, a person who lives consciously in the Lord’s presence. And to all this, service is added: you are to minister to him. Jesus’ great service or ministry to his Father was the gift of himself for the salvation of mankind. And by ordination you are inserted into this service of Jesus. In celebrating the Mass and the sacraments, you do what Jesus did — or better said, you allow Jesus to continue doing his saving work through you. When you baptize, you will bring men and women into a new birth; in the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church; with holy oil, you will relieve and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day not only for the people of God but for the whole world. In this you fulfill a ministry both to God and to humanity in obedience to the Lord’s command: Do this in memory of me.
Seek, then, always to be conscious of what you do so that you always strive to imitate the sacred mysteries you celebrate. Don’t be afraid of hard work. We don’t want you to “burn” yourselves “out,” but priests are to “burn” themselves “up.” “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” (cf. Psalm 69: 9; John 2: 17).
As Pope Francis insists, “there is no need for clerical priests whose behavior risks distancing people from the Lord, or functionary priests who, while they fulfill their role, seek the consolation far from him.” A functionary can go through the motions, like an actor playing a role — and a hypocrite is an actor, a role player. Pope Francis adds, "Only those who keep a steady gaze on what is truly essential may renew their acceptance of the gift they have received. … Only those who allow themselves to conform to the Good Shepherd find unity, peace and strength in the obedience of service; only those who take their breath in priestly fraternity leave behind the falsehood of a conscience that claims to be the epicenter of everything, the sole measure of their feelings and actions.”
It’s not about you — it’s about Jesus Christ. So when you preach, don’t tell us about your vacations, the movies you saw, or even about your personal struggles or failures — TMI; rather tells us of Jesus, his love, his compassion, his mercy. And be Jesus for your people!
Jesus, who as Son of God was and is whom the Lord willed to become servant of all. He is the High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant who has made you “worthy to be in (his) presence and minister to (him).” At the Last Supper, when he instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus portrayed the whole of his high priesthood in the simple gesture of the washing of the feet. By your generosity in giving of your time, by your ready availability to the people of God, by your accessibility to those in pain or in need, by your closeness to the poor and the marginalized, may you wash the feet of the people entrusted to your care.
With the help of the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in our weakness and of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, who watches over us with a Mother’s love, may you imitate the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve.