The power of the Sacraments – May 2024

My Sister and Brothers in Christ:

We continue to hear how to be formed and live through the proclamation of Scripture this holy season of Easter. We learn how the disparate and scattered people gather in the Name of Jesus to become one body of Christ. We hear how they care for one another so that no one is in need and that this care is genuine through the love of Christ; not for the gain or popularity of one. We ponder the concerns brought before them and how they fought mightily against uprisings or politics to remain steadfast in the Way of Jesus. We bear their persecution because of their strong faith and the fear by others of their power through, with and in the one triune God. We rejoice when they are called Christians.

During this holy season, we are amazed at this small group, so filled with the Holy Spirit, that by their fervor, we today come together across the entire earth as a Eucharist and are thus commissioned to spread the Good News as the first
disciples did after Jesus’ Resurrection. All the obstacles placed before them are our own experiences today. Yet, they saw Jesus before, within and beyond any difficulty, so strong was their faith.

Each moment was a cup of blessing for them, and they rejoiced in all that was given for their sake. The day and night were dedicated to God and the heart of the people was of God. During the months of April and May, we also rejoice, like the first disciples, with the community as our youngest receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I marvel at the gift of technology for we can celebrate with each other, not only family by family or in one small community, but across the Diocese of Orlando and across the world as photos and texts and videos are uploaded and shared. This joyous proclamation brings God’s message to our sisters and brothers no matter where they live. I know the same happens when we participate with our newborns for the Sacrament of Baptism or with our family members who participate in the Sacraments of Confirmation, Matrimony or Anointing of the Sick.

The first disciples taught us well — anything that is through, with and in God is not received by just one person, but for the community of faith. The Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ, which is ever living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are “the masterworks of God” in the new and everlasting covenant (CCC 1116).

The Sacraments are “for the Church” in the sense that “the sacraments make the Church,” since they manifest and communicate to men, above all in the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the God who is love, One in three persons (CCC 1118).

The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace — a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit — the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church. For this reason, it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the Sacrament of Holy Orders (CCC 1547).

I recently read an article authored by our beloved †Bishop Thomas Grady in 1985. He reminded me that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a Sacrament of the community of faith. Two transitional deacons, Deacons Michael Batista and Phillip Mills, with the grace of God, will be ordained to the Priesthood May 25, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, at 10 a.m. Bishop Grady wisely notes, the Ordination ceremony is an experience of unity as everyone who participates, whether in person or via livestream or in prayer, are at one with everyone else.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is for the common good. These two men are taken from the community and will serve the community. The Sacrament came to be not only because of the gifts given to these men to say “yes” to God; but also because of the gifts “given by the Spirit to every person in the church.” Every person in the Diocese of Orlando has gifts from the Spirit which led up to the Ordination.

The liturgy of every Ordination is an expression of unity. In the Diocese of Orlando, we are blessed with beautiful diocesan liturgies because of a team of staff and volunteers who serve God with a righteous heart that all may participate una voce, with one voice.

The central moment in the Ordination ceremony is when, in silence, the bishop lays his hands upon each ordained man, imparting to each the Holy Spirit. For each man it is a culmination of years of “probing, of searching for vocational identity, of study, of spiritual formation, of pastoral experience. At the same time, it is the beginning of a whole new way of life, of being empowered to celebrate Mass, to administer the sacraments to preach, to comfort, to heal.” Now they are separate in the sense that they will be called upon for service, but always in need of service from other priests and the people of God. Bishop Grady poignantly writes, “Above all they are at the dawning of a new relationship with Jesus, a relationship which, as years pass, will intermingle with their relationship to their people and be the deepest source of their strength and satisfaction and peace.”

At every Ordination, mothers and fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles — the families of the Ordinands — are present in the first pews of the Basilica. The clergy serving in the Diocese of Orlando, religious sisters, seminarians, and discerners fill more pews. Friends, co-workers, classmates, and the community of faith overflow the sacred space as they have all served the ordinands on their journeys toward this ministry of priesthood.

Let us also reflect that the reception of any Sacrament is not just one moment. It is a lifetime of fulfilled and fulfilling grace transcending the person receiving and the community of faith offering. Bishop Grady tenders, “When we say that the Spirit is the life of the Church, which is what we mean — namely, that the gifts of the Spirit working in the community beget the life that nurtures and perpetuates the community. Generation after generation we are all given to drink of the Spirit.” The newly ordained will be dispensers of the gifts of the Spirit and will depend upon the gifts of the Spirit within the community.