Thursday, December 7, 2017
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the episcopal ordination of Miami’s Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Delgado. The ceremony took place Dec. 7, 2017 in St. Mary Cathedral.
In the name of the priests, the deacons, the men and women of consecrated life and the members of Christ's faithful of this local Church which I am privileged to serve as archbishop, I welcome the Bishop-elect's family —most of his 11 siblings have traveled to Miami to be here today; his elderly father will watch the ceremony live-streamed to Peru and his mother, of course, watches from heaven. A warm welcome to the apostolic nuncio, Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, and the bishops who join with me today in laying hands on Enrique to ordain him as a successor of the Apostles and a member of the College of Bishops.
There is a Haitian proverb that says, “bourik fè pitit pou do l repoze”. The donkey gives birth to give its back a rest. So, as Archbishop of Miami, I am very happy that Pope Francis has given me the assistance of a second auxiliary bishop to share with Bishop Baldacchino in the task of helping me “shepherd” God’s people here in South Florida. And in calling Enrique Delgado to the episcopacy, the pope has chosen a servant leader, a humble shepherd of souls and a hard worker.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks not about donkeys but about sheep and shepherds. He tells us that he is the Good Shepherd.I remember once, years ago, when I was celebrating Mass for some youngsters and the Gospel of the Mass was the same one we just heard, it occurred to me to ask them what a shepherd was. Here in urbanized Miami we don’t see many sheep or people whose task is to tend to them. And so when I asked them what a shepherd was, most of the children looked back at me with blank stares — until one brave boy raised his hand and suggested that a “shepherd” was a mean dog. So, who knows what was going through their minds as I talked about Jesus being the Good Shepherd? Religious images and religious language are hard for our contemporaries to understand. As Cardinal George used to say, “We don’t speak the same language: in the Church we use the language of theology and philosophy, and the world speaks in the language of psychology and sociology.”
A bishop, in the words of St. John Paul II, "is called in a particular way to be a prophet, witness and servant of hope." This task of a bishop perhaps is more daunting than ever because of the relativism and subjectivism which mar so much of contemporary culture. Indeed, the ascendant secularism of our age, by closing the doors to the Infinite and thus to the source of all hope, is changing how people perceive reality, leaving them confused as to why they live and about how they should live their lives. The culture of the “here and now” leaves no room for openness to transcendence. As people are tempted to live etsi Deus non daretur, as if God didn't matter, they are increasingly bereft of hope thinking that they were created for nothing more than just to die one day.
A servant of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world, the bishop must therefore be filled with the courage of humility — not asking what prevailing opinion says about him but following the criterion of God's truth and taking his stand accordingly — whether opportune or not. Such a bishop was St. Ambrose, whose feast day the Church commemorates today. Like Ambrose, a bishop seeks to "discern wherever he exercises his ministry, the signs of life which are able to uproot the seeds of destruction and death. Hope sustains him as he transforms conflicts themselves into an opportunity for growth and for reconciliation." (Pastores Gregis)
As a good shepherd must know his sheep – and even as Pope Francis says – have the smell of the sheep, a bishop must know his people and be close to them; but, just as importantly, he must know Christ and be close to him so that the people might recognize, in him and through his ministry, Jesus Christ, who is the shepherd of shepherds, the one who lays down his life for his sheep.
My brother, Enrique, the liturgy of episcopal ordination interprets the essential features of a bishop's ministry in the questions which I will shortly pose to you. I will ask you eight times, “Do you resolve…?” Each question solicits from you a statement of your intention — your willingness to undertake what is being asked of you; and each question points out a path for you to follow in the exercise of your episcopal ministry. And what is asked of you? What are those paths to be followed? You are asked to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to go ahead of and lead God's people; you are asked to teach the sacred heritage of our past; to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of the faithful; to show mercy and charity to the needy and the poor; you are asked to pray without ceasing. These questions set before you a road map, or itinerary, to be followed in the exercise of your episcopal office.
Enrique, remembering that the title “bishop” is one of service not of honor, may it be your highest aspiration to be consumed – not to burn yourself out but to burn yourself up – to sacrifice yourself for the Lord and for the good of every brother and sister entrusted to your pastoral care.
My dear people, the call to the order of the episcopate is a complete abandonment to the mystery of the cross — to the mystery of love. It is a dying to self. Christ in taking up his cross transformed the outward violence of the act of crucifixion into an act of freely giving his life for others.
Acting as father, brother and friend to all, Bishop Enrique Delgado will stand in the midst of God’s people as a living image of Christ, our hope, in whom all God's promises and all our expectations are fulfilled. To cite St. Augustine, Ambrose’s most distinguished convert, with you he is a Christian but for you he is a bishop. Respect him, love him, and pray for him that his ministry as bishop among us will be fruitful.
Enrique, as a bishop, follow the example of the Good Shepherd himself, convinced that in the words of St. Paul chosen as your episcopal motto: you can do “all things in Christ who strengthens you.”