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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Ordination Homily of Bishop Brian Farrell, LC
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you… As the Father has sent me, so I have sent you…”

Ordenaciones sacerdotales 2009
A moment during the homily by Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, when he exhorted the new priests to live their vocation with generosity.
My dear Deacons:

1. You have just expressed your acceptance of the call of the Church of Christ for a particular mission, a transcendent salvific service, on behalf of all men. You will be bridges between earthly realities and that most authentic and true reality of God and the Kingdom of Christ. In a few moments, the Bishops and priests here gathered, will lay our hands on you to constitute you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, priests of Christ. We will consecrate your hands with the Holy Chrism, to sanctify you and to invoke upon you grace, wisdom and courage, so that you can go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Good News of Christ and be witnesses of his resurrection. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you… As the Father has sent me, so I have sent you…”. Remember this well: It is not that you have loved Christ, but rather that Christ first has loved you. Your “yes” is a response to his call: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

2. Your ordination takes place in this splendid Basilica of St. Paul, next to the tomb of the Apostle who worked untiringly to spread the Gospel. The transformation of Saul into Paul happened in an encounter with the risen Christ; for Saul was a man who relied too much on himself and was arrogant toward Jesus and his followers, yet he falls to the ground, blind, vulnerable and humbled. Years later he vividly recalls his thoughts in that moment: “Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said: ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting’”(Acts 26:15). Paul was struck with this thought: Jesus is alive and present in the community of the disciples. There is a new people who see in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ whom his people, the people chosen by God, have waited for so long. There is a new community who constitutes “the body of Christ”. “We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). We are one people, one community, one Church! One body in Christ.

A first consequence of this new understanding is one for Paul himself. He must incorporate himself into that community which up to now he persecuted. He has to bind himself to the disciples, and in particular to the apostles who came before him. We can only wonder at how much this new fidelity – this leaving behind all that he had loved up to then – must have cost Paul, who wrote to the Romans: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the sonship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever” (Romans 9:2-5). But Paul does not retreat. From now on Christ is everything to him. He became so committed to Jesus that he said: “For me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21) and “I have been won over by Christ” (Phil 3:12).

A second consequence is that Paul, strengthened by his experience on the way to Damascus, understood that the life of a disciple, both individually and with others, is not only an external imitation of a Master and model; Christian life is not only an ethical or moral force, of self-perfection according to a code of conduct, be this wise and sublime. Christian life is a true transformation. Without forgetting the ontological difference between Creator and creature, we must remember that Christian life – when brought to its full realization – is nothing other than a process of assimilation to God himself, a process which is brought about in the celebration of the sacraments, most eminently in the Eucharist, in the wiping away of the effects of sin and in configuration to Christ, and consequently in obedience to God’s will in daily life. The priesthood you receive today is placed at the service of sanctifying, teaching and guiding the whole people of God. “Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins… he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people” (Hebrews 5:1-3).

3. Your ordination takes place within the year dedicated in a special way to priests. If these are difficult times for the Church, they are also, in a particular way, difficult times for Christ’s ministers, who have the task of caring for the life and well-being of the pilgrim Church on earth - hence Christ’s ministers often become the objects of the opposition directed towards the Church.

4. A beautiful description of the Church is the following: the Church is Jesus Christ transmitted – poured out and communicated. The love of God’s heart for men is always living and active. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This Love is made present in the world until the end of time, especially through the gift of the Eucharist, which contains the whole treasure of the Church. In the Mass, in Communion, in the Tabernacle, Jesus chose in a marvellous way to remain with us and to communicate his love to us. According to God’s plan, the Eucharist becomes real presence and efficacious sacrifice through that ministry which is sacramentally configured to Christ the High Priest. For two-thousand years the Holy Spirit, as today, has introduced chosen men into a sacramental participation in this extraordinary interplay between divine love – that flows from the Father, is made present in Christ, and becomes operative in us through the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit – and the love of the disciples who united to Christ give themselves to God and to their brothers.

5. When he announced this special Year for Priests, our Holy Father described the context in which the priest carries out his work. He said: “The priest’s mission is carried out ‘in the Church’. This ecclesial, communal, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable to every authentic mission and, alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as intimately connected:
- the mission is ‘ecclesial’ because no one proclaims himself in the first person, but within and through his own humanity every priest must be well aware that he is bringing to the world Another, God himself. God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest.
- The mission is ‘communal’ because it is carried out in a unity and communion that only secondly has also important aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be expert, so that he may be able to lead the souls entrusted

to him humbly and trustingly to the same encounter with the Lord.
- Lastly, the ‘hierarchical’ and ‘doctrinal’ dimensions suggest reaffirming the importance of the ecclesiastical discipline (the term has a connection with ‘disciple’) and doctrinal training and not only theological, initial and continuing formation” (March 16, 2009).

6. I would like to comment on another context: Did you want to choose Legionary life? Good, but remember that the Legion, that is now coming to life under the sign of the Cross, will only have a future if we all abandon every sentiment of self-sufficiency and understand that we are essentially in a permanent state of conversion, which is never acquired once and for all. The field that the Lord opens up for your work is immense. But the value of your apostolate is not founded on the goods of this world or on yourselves. Rather, its roots are found in the goods that are of Christ; that Christ who lives and grows within us. St. Paul understood this: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!” (Gal 2:20).

7. The priesthood is not your own; it is always for others. It has an essentially missionary dimension. Christ is sending you into the world, to continue the work that the Father gave him: “As you have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world” (John 17:18). It is a world in which a culture of oppression and death reigns in large part. It is a confused and divided world, which has cast aside the teachings of Christ and his Church. It is to this world that you are to announce the truth of Christ. It is an immense task and a great and pressing responsibility. But have no fear, Jesus is always with you to reassure you: “I am with you… It is I, do not be afraid…”. With him, you have everything you need. He asks you to renounce everything; but in return he gives you “His All”. Jesus, in sending you, promises: “I have appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).

What fruit can and should the priest bear? To this question, I offer the answer of Pope Benedict XVI who, in his announcement of the “Year for Priests”, said: “God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest”. This is the most beautiful wish and program that we can offer you for your priestly life! May you be men of God! May you bring God to others!

May the great Mother of God, the Virgin of Guadalupe (on whose feast you are ordained), accompany you in every step of your priestly life! May the Mother of Tenderness sustain you wherever you are in your service to your brothers and sisters.

I offer my most heartfelt congratulations and best-wishes to you, your parents, your family and friends, as well as the Legion who today counts among its ranks new laborers for good and peace.


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