|Photo by Donna Ryckaert|
Homily for Priestly Ordination
May 23, 2015
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
2 Corinthians 5:14-20
The readings that our ordinandi have selected and that the Church has given us for today speak to us about reconciliation, anointing, and mission.
The very first verse of our Gospel reading taken from John offers us what is for most preachers at first reading a very awkward and challenging statement. It reads, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors, were locked, where the Disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.” This phrase, “for fear of the Jews,” stirs within us discomfort because of so many sad years of sinful rancor among Christians and Jews. We read it, we listen to it, and emotionally we would prefer to omit it, to avoid it, to overlook it, to explain it away, or even to deny it.
Yet, there it is, in the middle of an account of the Lord’s Resurrection. Instead of acting on any of these emotional preferences, let’s consider this phrase even more deeply in light of a fact that is easily and all too frequently overlooked -- the disciples who were locked away in fear were themselves Jews -- and they were afraid of their parents, their children, their sisters and brothers, their neighbors, and their fellow synagogue members; the very people who were closest to them in love and community. The disciples’ fear is compounded further by the shame of their own sins in abandoning Christ on Good Friday and failing in their fidelity to His mission.
It is precisely in the middle of this shame, this fear, and this division that Jesus appears and wishes the Disciples peace. As prophesied in our first reading from Isaiah, Christ, the anointed One, liberates the Disciples from their captivity to shame and sin -- and manifests the Good News of forgiveness. Jesus then shows the disciples His wounds -- His hands, and His side. These are not the bloody wounds of Good Friday — steeped in shame and the results of their own sinful selfishness -- these are the wounds of Easter -- glorified, redeemed, yet real wounds of a sacrifice made in love. The Disciples rejoice. Jesus wishes them peace a second time, gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and sends them on His mission of forgiveness and reconciliation.
My dear sons, today, you are to be ordained priests. Your hands are to be anointed with the anointing of Christ -- your hands thus become His wounded hands – glorified -- to celebrate the Eucharist, to baptize, and to absolve sinners, to anoint the sick, and to bless the vows of the married. Today, through your ordination as priests, you receive the same Holy Spirit to carry out this mission of reconciliation and forgiveness entrusted to you by Christ. To be faithful to this mission entrusted to you by Jesus -- you must never omit, avoid, overlook, explain away, or even deny the scandal of division and suffering caused by sin. You must address it with the fullness of the truth in light of the mercy of God fully revealed in the glorified wounds of Christ -- the wounds in His hands -- that are now your hands -- through the anointing of this sacrament of Holy Orders. As Pope Francis recently stated, the “path to our encounter with Jesus – God are His wounds. There is no other [path].”
Through your ordination, you are given the Holy Spirit by Christ -- who provides you with the capacity to speak the Truth and to speak it well. Listen to Him. Most especially, in the confessional when penitents approach you with their anguished wounds of sin -- Christ enables you as His priest to manifest the full truth of His redemption and forgiveness of their sins -- by kindly revealing the utter powerlessness and futility of their sins in the face of Christ’s unconditional love and mercy. Through your encouragement and absolution, Christ glorifies their wounds caused by sin -- and reconciles penitents to God and to their neighbor, thereby liberating them from their captivity and slavery to fear of those whom they are called to love.
This mission of reconciliation extends beyond the confessional to your daily life and ministry as priests. Your priestly ministry includes that you be agents of reconciliation and healing for those wounded by sin within our society, among our families, within our parish communities, among your brother priests, and throughout the world. This mission is Christ’s gift to you -- not your gift to Him -- never cease to thank Him -- and ask our Blessed Mother to assist you with her prayers.
|Photo by Juan Guajardo|