Ordination to the Priesthood – May 2018

Welcome to St James Cathedral on this joy-filled day as we are about to ordain two of our brothers to the priesthood: I welcome especially Deacon Matthew Hawkins and Deacon Blake Britton.  We welcome your families, and friends with our prayers and gratitude. The priests, deacons of the Diocese of Orlando and those who are visiting us from other Dioceses, welcome.  The classmates of our Deacons who were ordained or about to be ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, welcome to Orlando. To all seminarians and young people who are here to witness this Ordination, I hope and pray it is a source of inspiration for you in your vocation to the priesthood. Those who could not join us today, we welcome them as they join us on the internet by way of live stream.

I welcome especially the faculty and staff of St John Vianney and St Vincent de Paul Seminaries for their dedication in education and forming you. I thank Fr. Jorge Torres, your Vocations Director who has accompanied and guided you over the years. I am grateful to Fr. Miguel Gonzalez who helped in your discernment to follow Christ.

Deacon Matthew, we thank your mother, Judy, and your father, Paul, for giving you life and caring for you. We welcome your sister, Nicole, and her husband, Clancy, and their sons. Matthew, you began your journey of faith with questions about life and its purpose; “looking for an ideal by which to live. Eventually that ideal that I was searching for began to take form. He had a face. He had a name. It was Jesus Christ that I had always been searching for…….and I knew I wanted to give my life totally to it, in service to the people and living always in the presence of God.” Matthew, may God Who answered your questions now consecrate you through His holy anointing as His priest.

Deacon Blake, I welcome you and your family; your sister, Victoria, and brothers, Alexander and Jacob, and your mother, Lydia, who consecrated you to the Blessed Mother before you were born. Recalling as a little boy while examining your father’s hands, you remarked they were rough and scarred from work. Of which you said, “I want to be a priest whose hands are wounded” for the sake of the children of God because that’s what a father does for his family.  Blake, the Lord who formed you from your mother’s womb cared for you with a Father’s hands. Now, by the laying on of hands, you will be consecrated as His priest.

The prophet Isaiah in the first reading says, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me.” You will be anointed because your names have been made known to God.  Jesus in the Gospel prays for His disciples, “I have made your name known to those You gave Me out of this world. These men You gave were Yours; they have Your Word . . .   Consecrate them by means of truth, Your Word is truth. As You have sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world.” John 17: 6; 18-19. Matthew and Blake, your names have been made known to God and you too will be sent out into the world.

Pope Francis said in the Year of Mercy, “Let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of His heart and repeats that He loves us and wants to share His love with us.”  So, let the Lord love you so you too can share His love with the world. Pope Francis’ motto is based on the call of Matthew, “Miserando atque eligendo,” which means “because He saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.” You have been chosen through the eyes of the mercy of God. Paul in the Letter to the Corinthians tells us that we are given this ministry of priesthood through the mercy of God. In your sharing of divine mercy, may you be dedicated to living out in your daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to you.

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.” Pope Francis also asked that “Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in His preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as His disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.”

Pope Benedict said in Mercy and the Sacrament of Reconciliation “we let ourselves be molded and transformed by Christ.” As priests we need to make regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to reassure ourselves of our own need for the mercy of God so that we not only experience Mercy but we are also available to share it.

What does it mean to be a priest? Pope Francis said, “priests are moved by their sheep, like Jesus when he saw the people, tired and exhausted, like sheep without a shepherd.” He commented that the priest, following the example of the Good Shepherd, is a man of mercy and compassion, close to his people and the servant of all. “the priest demonstrates the depths of his mercy in administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation; he shows this in all his attitude, in his way of welcoming, listening, advising and absolving. . . But this derives from how he lives this Sacrament himself. . . If a person lives this himself, in his own heart, he is also able to give it to others in his ministry.”

I share with you some advice that Pope Francis shared recently. “Do you cry? How many of us cry when faced with the suffering of a child, the destruction of a family, before the many people who cannot find their path? The tears of a priest . . . Do you cry, or is this a clergy that has lost its tears? Do you cry for your people? Do you battle with the Lord for your people, like Abraham fought?”

Reflecting often on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will reawaken our minds so that our hearts don’t grown dull in the face of such poverty. Then, we will enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.

Matthew and Blake, behold the treasure you are about to become  ̶  vessels of Truth  ̶  you will not only preach the Gospel but also live the Gospel. You preach Jesus Christ as Lord and yourself as servant for the sake of the Gospel. What will sustain you in your priesthood?  A constant life of prayer that the mercy of God penetrates your heart  ̶  and never forget the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis said on Pentecost 2013, The Holy Spirit “as Jesus promises, guides us “into all Truth” (Jn 16:13). He leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us “into” the Truth, that is, He helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God. We cannot achieve this on our own strengths.”

May 26, 2018