Bishop Yves, (Father Epping), Father O’Hara, Brothers and Sisters in Holy Cross, Parents, Family and Friends of Ryan and Michael.
By virtue of our Baptism all of us are consecrated “as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.” In Lumen Gentium, the document of Vatican II on the Church, we read:
“Christ the Lord… made the new people (the Church) ‘a kingdom of priests to his God and Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all their christian activities they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the marvels of him who has called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (Lumen Gentium – 2, 10)
All of us participate in this way in the priesthood of Jesus Christ offering sacrifices and proclaiming by Word and by act the marvels of God’s love.
While it is true that “God has made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ, our High Priest, Jesus Christ, also chose some of his followers to carry out publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of humankind.” Today by the laying on of hands, Michael and Ryan will be ordained to this ministerial priesthood in the Order of Presbyters, as co-workers with the Bishops in their apostolic ministry. The words of Jesus spoken in today’s Gospel to the Apostles are words for Mike and Ryan on the day of their ordination: “Go throughout the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16, 15)
There is an intimate relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all believers. As priests, Ryan and Michael, you are called to build up this spiritual house which is the Church and to confirm and strengthen the priestly identitiy of all God’s people.
You will do this as you act in the name and in the person of Jesus Christ Teacher, Priest and Shepherd.
You will act in the name of Christ the Teacher when you proclaim the Good News of the Gospel by word and deed and live out the Holy Cross charism as “educators in the faith”.
Pope Francis urges priests to “impart to everyone the Word of God which we have received with joy.” And he invites priests to remember who gave us the Word first: “Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the Word of God, the faith – the gift of faith.” Ryan and Michael, I invite you to give special thanks today for those who were influential in bringing you the Word of God, the faith, especially those who did so first, your parents.
Our people like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, “when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the ‘outskirts’ where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord.” (Pope Francis – Chrism Mass – 2013)
People do not want us to speak in abstractions, but to share with them what we have lived and experienced. As we heard Peter says in the Reading from Acts, “we cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4, 20)
As preachers of the Word, we are called to “believe what we have read, teach what we believe, and put into practice what we teach.” (Exhortation – Rite of Ordination to the Presbyterate). We know the importance of personal witness and integrity if we are to be effective and convincing ministers. In the Second Reading, Timothy is exhorted “to be an example for the believers in Word, conduct, love, faith and purity.” (I Tim 4, 12)
Those who spoke on your behalf today also underscored the importance of personal witness. Ryan, Zenaida Delgado said that you preached “the Word of God, making Christ present through your service, giving of yourself totally with humility, charity and especially with much love.”
Mike, Steve and Liz Appleton said they valued not only your preaching and presiding at the Sacraments, but also “your helping to serve lunch at the school, your opening car doors for students in the mornings, and playing Saint Nicholas during the breakfast at the St. Nick event.”
Ryan, Paul Fujawa said that “your joy and energy are examples for all.”
Ryan and Mike, as priests you are called to act in the name and the person of Christ the Priest. You will do this “when you baptize, and bring men and women into the people of God.” You will do this when, in the sacrament of penance, “you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church”. There you are called to make manifest to those who come to you to confess their sins the infinite mercy and compassion of our God. As Pope Francis reminds us, “Mercy touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others, it gets personal, it does not approach ‘cases’ but persons and their pain.” (Pope Francis to Priests – June 2, 2016)
You will act in the name of Christ the Priest when, with holy oil you relieve and console the sick and the elderly. They are to have a special place in the priest’s heart in imitation of Christ who felt compassion for the sick and infirm.
You will act in the name and in the person of Christ the Priest especially when you preside at the Eucharist, uniting the sacrifices and the witness of the faithful to the Sacrifice of Christ. You will make it posible for the faithful to be nourished at the Lord’s table and grow in communion with the Lord and with one another.
As the ordination exhortation says, “Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.”
Finally, you are called to act in the name and the person of Christ the Good Shepherd. By virtue of your ordination you share in the pastoral ministry of the Bishops. Priests are called coworkers of the Bishops, seeking to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served by to serve, and to seek out and rescue those who were lost.
As Pope Francis reminds us, “A shepherd after the heart of God has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but a Good Samaritan who seeks out those in need… he finds because he takes risks. He does not stop when disappointed and he does not yield to weariness. Indeed, he is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one. Not only does he keep his doors open, but he also goes to seek out those who no longer wish to enter them.” (Pope Francis – Homily – June 3, 2016).
A priest is “a shepherd for the flock, not an inspector, and he devotes himself to the mission not fifty or sixty percent, but with all he has.”
Mike and Ryan, the misión you receive today through the laying on of hands is daunting and demanding. I can tell you that being faithful to this call is posible only if we find our strength and guidance in Christ Teacher, Priest and Shepherd. I can assure you from experience that if you are faithful to this call and devote yourself to the misión with all that you have, you will know a deep and abiding joy and receive the hundredfold that Jesus promises.
In her testimony Zenaida Delgado said that her prayer for Ryan and for all priests was this one: “Que Dios muestre su misericordia, les ayude a mantenerse fieles y que siempre les de ánimo para poder transmitir el Evangelio con alegría.” As we enter now into the Rite of Ordination, we make her prayer ours for Ryan and Mike: “May God show you his mercy; may he help you to remain faithful; and may he always give you strength to communicate the Gospel with joy.”
+Arthur J. Colgan, C.S.C.
April 22, 2017