On this, the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Orlando, to conclude our Priests’ Convocation, we come to pray and ask God’s blessing be on our priests and the people of God. Every Ordination is a joy-filled moment for the people – it is the gift of a new priest. For the priests, it is a moment to relive their own Ordination and to be renewed in the love of Jesus Christ as His servant and priest.
Today we come to ordain Edwin Cardona to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We welcome you Edwin, your parents and brother, your family and friends. We thank your parents for the love and dedication to your priestly vocation. We welcome especially your family who have come from El Salvador. El Salvador has a special place in your hearts as the land of your birth; and this year especially because Archbishop Oscar Romero will be canonized as a saint of the Church. I thank the rectors and faculties of St. John Vianney and St. Vincent de Paul for their care and dedication in the formation of our seminarians. I welcome our seminarians here this morning and I am sure you are looking forward to your Ordination one day with the help of God. I also welcome the priests and people of St. Catherine of Siena and the Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach.
Archbishop Romero has a special place in all our hearts; his life was a great example of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Archbishop Romero started his life as a priest teaching in the seminary. It was a quiet and tranquil life teaching and forming young men for the priesthood. When the war broke out in El Salvador his life changed. War brings pain and suffering injustice and violence with death, murder and total loss of respect for any life. Like Jeremiah the prophet in the first reading, Archbishop Romero felt unworthy and ill prepared to lead the people during this terrible war. Like Jeremiah, Archbishop Romero found strength in his relationship with God through a life of prayer. “In recent days the Lord has inspired in me a great desire for holiness. I have been thinking of how far a soul can ascend if it lets itself be possessed entirely by God.”
Archbishop Romero became the voice of the poor, the suffering and the forgotten. His voice became louder and louder as he witnessed the suffering of the people. His voice called for peace and justice for the people of El Salvador. His voice became a powerful teacher and witness to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy we hear, “do not neglect the gifts God has given you by the imposition of hands. Be diligent in preaching and teaching the word of God.” Archbishop Romero who felt he was not worthy or gifted to be a bishop had become not just a bishop but a prophet. He spoke with courage and conviction that came through a relationship with God in a life of prayer. Archbishop Romero discovered that God wanted him to be a voice for the people of El Salvador in their time of need. He had a radio program every Sunday when he would deliver his homily. On 23 March 1980, Romero delivered a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. The next day 24th March 1980 he was assassinated while celebrating Mass. His canonization will be on 14th October in Rome. Edwin, you and your family come from a deep and rich tradition of faith – a faith enriched by priests like Archbishop Romero.
We are grateful to many priests in El Salvador and here in Orlando who have helped plant the seeds of faith in you and your family. You are surrounded this morning by your family whom you love. You are also surrounded by all the priests of the Diocese of Orlando who love you and pray for you now. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is founded on love, a love that grows and give life to those whom we service.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples this new command, “As the Father has loved me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love . . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9-12). Christ reveals His heart to His disciples; He call them friends, not servants. This reveals to us the rich meaning and mystery of God’s love for us as His priests. It is not you who have chosen Me but I who have chosen You. Your yes this morning, Edwin, is your response to this love of God. It is a surrender of self to allow yourself to be found by God and to be led by God. Jeremiah and Archbishop Romero’s dilemma was allowing themselves to be loved and led by God. We know the results of this love in their lives. Being chosen by God is not easy. You may be sent on a mission on which you would rather not go. Like Jeremiah and Archbishop Romero the mission may be difficult, it may be challenging. Priesthood is a mission to bring Christ to others. It is always an experience of love. Archbishop Romero in one of his addresses to the people of El Salvador said it best, “How I would like to engrave this great idea on each one’s hearts: Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, of laws to be obeyed, of prohibitions. That makes it very distasteful. Christianity is a person, one who loved us so much, one who calls for our love. Christianity is Jesus Christ.”
These are very challenging times for the Church, the people and priests. But we must not forget that despite these challenges, we are still called to bring the love of Christ into the world. Christ reveals His heart to us. We have been chosen by Him to reveal not our own heart but the heart of Christ which is love. Jesus said, “no one has greater love than this, to lay one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Archbishop Romero continued to preach the Gospel’s message of the love of Jesus Christ. But it fell on deaf ears of those whose hearts were hardened, but to those who listened, it brought hope and eventually peace. Pope Francis reminds priests when we allow ourselves to be conformed by the love of Christ our lives our ministry changes. Our mission becomes the Mission of Jesus Christ. It becomes the Beatitudes. We bring the Gospel to life in the lives of our people. Edwin, as you are about to become a priest of Jesus Christ, God is calling you as friend to open your life to His love. This love of God can open your life in ways to prepare you to carry out the work of the Lord. Edwin, remember it is the Lord Who has chosen you to be His priest. Let His love help lead and guide you to bring the Good News of the Gospel in season and out of season to all God’s people.
Ordination to the Priesthood of Edwin Cardona
Corpus Christi Parish, Celebration
September 5, 2018