The joy of the Resurrection of Jesus permeates this ordination liturgy today, Saturday within the Octave of Easter. This joy over Christ’s triumph over sin and death fills our hearts today. We celebrate the victory of Christ’s holy cross. And the Congregation of Holy Cross and all of us celebrate with joy the gift of Christ’s priesthood which is received today by two faith-filled young men, Adam and Patrick. Adam and Patrick have been touched by the love of Christ and the power and warmth of that love. That is why they say “yes” to the call of the Lord and desire to spend the rest of their lives in His service. They share the love of Christ the Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church.
It is significant that we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders during this Easter Octave. The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of Christianity. The Church, the community of the Resurrection, lives by the power of Christ’s Resurrection. The Resurrection is an irresistible force that brings light into darkness, grace to the sinner, and life to the world. Christ is alive and His Kingdom has begun. Priests are called to be servants in this Kingdom, stewards of the mysteries of God, and witnesses of the Gospel of life.
Adam and Patrick chose the second reading for today’s liturgy. I imagine that they did so because they share the following conviction of Saint Paul: We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. This is a description of the vocation and mission of an apostle and priest. These are strong words of Paul, describing himself as a slave. To be a slave means to belong to someone else and to live one’s life in humble service. Saint Paul saw himself as a slave to the Corinthians for the sake of Jesus. He wanted to imitate Jesus, the Son of God, who took the form of a slave, who humbled Himself by His Incarnation, who declared that He came not to be served but to serve, and who humbled Himself unto death, death on the cross. Because of this, He was exalted. This was the Gospel Paul preached, not only with words, but by living it existentially through His self-giving service rendered in love after the manner of Jesus. His vocation as an apostle and priest was to be an ambassador for Christ. He embodied, he lived, the message he preached.
The priestly vocation involves the same. It means, as Saint Paul explained, not preaching ouselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, in our words and in our actions. Adam and Patrick will do so in a multitude of ways. They will evangelize and catechize, baptize and forgive, counsel and advise, anoint the sick and serve the poor. In a word, they will continue the saving mission of Jesus. They will be His ambassadors. They will share in His priesthood. They will celebrate His life-giving actions in the sacraments, acting in Christ’s person. In the most amazing of all the sacraments, through their hands, the Lord Jesus will become present on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. They will be able to do so, not because of their own power or merit, but because of what happens to them in the sacrament they receive today. Through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration, the power of the Risen Christ will touch their very souls. The character they will receive through the sacramental anointing of the Holy Spirit is the vehicle of the special graces for carrying out their priestly ministry. They are consecrated through ordination so as to be able to bring the grace of God to their brothers and sisters.
Patrick and Adam, you know that your first task will be to proclaim the word of God. You’ve already been doing so as deacons. In today’s Gospel, the Risen Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. And they did so. We heard in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles about the boldness of Peter and John in their proclamation of the Gospel. The leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, but also upset. They ordered Peter and John not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But the apostles refused to heed their order. They said: It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard. We need that kind of boldness in the Church today, the courage to preach the truth of the Gospel even when it isn’t popular or leads to rebuke. Of course, we must always do so with charity and mercy. Peter and John didn’t have this courage before Pentecost. It was only with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit that they were able to carry out their priestly mission. The same with us. Through your ordination, Adam and Patrick, you receive this power and strength to proclaim the Gospel with courage, love, and joy even when it meets with opposition. Pope Francis, like Benedict XVI before him, and like the holy popes who will be canonized tomorrow, John XXIII and John Paul II, our Holy Father is calling the whole Church to new fervor in the mission of evangelization. He’s calling us to obey the missionary mandate of Jesus with Gospel joy. He’s calling the Church to go out, to go forth without hesitation, reluctance or fear. As our Holy Father wrote: the joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.
Pope Francis has said that the best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us. Patrick and Adam and Holy Cross fathers and brothers, this was the experience of your holy founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. I encourage you to continue to learn from his example and teaching. Reading Father Moreau’s meditations and sermons, we see a man of deep prayer who entered into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He contemplated the divine Word and adored the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This is what animated and inspired his apostolic zeal. His legacy is a gift to us today.
Father Moreau spoke about how lavish is the heart of Jesus toward priests. He wrote: Jesus chose us priests to speak to people about his love. He called us to the remarkable and formidable honor of making him present every day on the altar, of receiving him every day in our heart by Holy Communion. And finally, he confided to us the care of all souls for whom he gave up his life. … Ah, let us take our poor, wretched heart and plunge it into this divine fire whose hearth is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It will come forth from the fire a strong, sturdy apostle’s heart, overflowing with an immense love for God and for neighbor. Adam and Patrick, this is my prayer for you today, that you will have strong and sturdy apostles’ hearts, a passionate love for Christ and for His Church. Then you will serve God’s people well and grow in holiness, like Basil Moreau and John XXIII and John Paul II. You are called, like them and all holy priests, to be men of prayer who listen daily to the Word of God, celebrate the Eucharist daily, and confess your sins regularly.
May Mary, the Mother of the Church and Mother of priests, be ever at your side with her loving care! May she help you to be faithful servants and friends of her Divine Son and priests after His own heart!
The Most Rev.Kevin C Rhoades is the bishop of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend. He conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Rev. Adam Booth, C.S.C., and Rev. Patrick Reidy, C.S.C.