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'Love your people with a shepherd's heart'

Archbishop Wenski's homily at installation of Holy Family pastor

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass at Holy Family Church in North Miami, Oct. 15, 2017, where he installed Father Fritzner Bellonce as pastor.

Father Fritzner has been here at Holy Family for some time and he has asked that I come here today to formally install him as your pastor. That means he wants to stay. And, of course, I am happy to appoint him as your pastor because in the weeks and months he has been here, he has shown himself to be a good, zealous, and energetic pastor of souls.

Holy Family looks like that wedding feast after the king had told his servants to go out into the streets and byways and invite anyone they might find. And the servants filled the banquet hallwith all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good. Jesus’ parable today is to be understood as an allegory – those first invited refused to come. The good news was first preached to the people of Israel but when they resisted, the apostles went to the gentiles. The exclusive synagogue – and excluding synagogue – is replaced by an all-inclusive and welcoming church where the wedding feast of the Kingdom is foreshadowed and anticipated by the banquet of the Eucharist, where we share in the bounty of Christ’s body and blood.

Holy Family Parish, like every parish, has a special vocation, a calling – it is the responsibility of each one of you as parishioners – and that is to be a living sign, a witness in the midst of a world of fragile peace and broken promises of what a reconciled and reconciling world looks like.

In the parable, Jesus tells us that “all are welcomed” – come as you are. They say that at these ancient wedding feasts, if you couldn’t afford to bring a wedding garment, the host would provide you one at the door. So, come as you are; but don’t stay as you were.

The parable is an allegory – that’s is a lot of symbolic language – so it’s not really about a dress code for church. Thank God! Because here in Florida we are quite relaxed aren’t we? The wedding garment refers to the interior disposition of our hearts. As Jesus said when he began his ministry, “change your hearts and believe the Gospel.” As one 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.”

In Colossians, St. Paul tells us how to dress so that we will never be thrown out of any banquet. “…be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness, and humility, gentleness and patience. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and to complete them, put on love.” (Col 3: 12ff)

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

Father Fritzner 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. In the midst of 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 Fritzner will strengthen you in the grace that will have you grow in holiness before the Lord.

Father Fritzner, 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.

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