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Complete self-giving: the condition of discipleship

Archbishop Wenski's homily at installation of St. Ambrose's pastor

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, June 28, 2020, during a Mass where he installed Salvatorian Father Dariusz Zarebski as pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Deerfield Beach.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This might sound contradictory, but these are the conditions of discipleship. A man called to the priesthood offers himself completely to God’s Church, just as a husband in marriage gives himself completely, holding nothing back from his wife. A consecrated woman gives herself in total devotion as a bride of Christ, just as a wife gives herself unreservedly in matrimony to her husband. All of these examples are renunciations of the self to love in imitation of Christ.

And these are simply the normal high standards of the Gospel that each one of us, through baptism, is to aspire to. As the bishops of the Second Vatican Council said in underlining the universal call to holiness of all the baptism: We can only realize ourselves as human beings – and become the men or women that God calls us to be – only through the sincere gift of ourselves.  Thus, for the Christian the way to true happiness – or to put it in a theological way – to beatitude – is found not through self-seeking or self-assertion but through self-giving and self-sacrifice. For the Christian the way to happiness is love – which requires us to take up the cross and follow him. Jesus promises us glory – but the road to glory passes along the way of the Cross, the way of self-forgetting love.

This is the kind of love that unites, a love that heals, a love that reconciles. Sin divides, sin hurts, and sin engenders conflict.  Oftentimes, when we come across conflict and division, we misidentify its causes. In the Body of Christ, we are many members – and each member is different. And when we observe division or conflict, we might think that the reason is because of the differences. 

But that is to misplace the blame. It is almost blasphemous – because it is as if we are blaming God, who created each one of us – with his or her differences. In the Church, there is great diversity – of language, of cultures, of races; we are male and female, we are rich and poor, learned and unlearned. And in God’s plan, this diversity is not meant to divide the Church but to enrich the Church – for God has made us in such a wise way that there is no one too poor that he does not have something to give, nor is there anyone so rich that he cannot receive.

My prayer is that St. Ambrose– under the leadership of your pastor – be always a reconciled and reconciling community.

Father Dariusz, as your pastor, is to be a faithful steward of you, the people entrusted to his care, and he is to dispense to you – with single minded and wholehearted devotion – the means of grace by preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments. 

Father Dariusz, love your people with a shepherd’s heart and feed them, lead them to Christ and teach them gently – by word and example. 

Father Dariusz is entrusted with the “care of your souls,” what in Latin is called the “cura animarum.” He is to carry out his duties “not with a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control” (cf. Timothy).

This care of souls is a threefold task: First, he must teach you faithfully what the Church believes and teaches. Amid this changing world – with its trials, its tribulations but also with its joys and hopes – your pastor is to remind you that Jesus' words do not pass away, they do not go out of style. His words of promise remain in full force and effect.

He doesn’t speak in his own name but in the name of Christ; second, he must lead you, like the Good Shepherd, to safe pastures; and third, he must bring you to greater holiness.

In the confessional, in the Eucharist, in the anointing at baptism, confirmation and in the care of the sick, Father Dariusz will strengthen you in the grace that will have you grow in holiness before the Lord. As one Gospel preacher would tell his people over and over again: We ain’t what we oughta be and we ain’t what we’re gonna be; but thank God almighty, we ain’t what we used to be.

Father Dariusz, I am sure, will serve you well; and he will serve not by calling attention to himself but by calling attention to the Lord; he will serve not by seeking his own interests but by putting first God’s will and his people’s good and well-being; he will serve not by trying to please everyone – for one who tries to do that usually ends up pleasing no one; rather he will serve you best by trying to please the Lord in all things.

Father’s qualities as a human being and as a priest are already well known to you here at St. Ambrose – and perhaps his shortcomings are also known to you as well. Nevertheless, he has served you for a good number of years as a parochial vicar under Fr. Bryan Dalton. And since Fr. Dalton’s passing, he has served as the administrator of this parish. Fr. Dalton left big shoes to fill – but with his own gifts he has done well – and will continue to do so.

Pray for your priests – give them your support. Both men left mother and father, they left what was familiar to them, they learned a new culture and a new language and have come here to the mission fields of Deerfield Beach. As the woman in today’s first reading showed hospitality to the prophet, Elisha, and was rewarded by God for it, I thank you for the hospitality you have shown to the missionary priests who have served you here at St. Ambrose. They came from Ireland – and now Poland and Vietnam. They speak with different accents – but the same language – the language of love.

As Jesus says in the Gospel reading today: “Whoever receives you receives me,and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward… And whoever gives only a cup of cold waterto one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Comments from readers

Christine Liguori - 06/28/2020 06:32 PM
It was such a blessing to be present for the installation of Fr. Dariusz. Archbishop Wenski's homily was so powerful, inspiring, and relevant to the world we live in today. He spoke with true humility and leadership, not only with regards to Father Dariusz, but for ourselves. Also, Archbishop Wenski made a thought-provoking statement by reminding parishoners of what so many priests have given up to serve the church. Our prayers are with you. God bless you, and may Our Lady Guardian of the Faith protect and cover these priests with your precious mantle.

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