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 Luis Salazar and Deacon Martin Nguyen. We welcome your families, and friends with our prayers and gratitude.
To the priests, deacons of the Diocese of Orlando and those who are visiting us from other Dioceses, welcome. To 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. For those who could not join us today, we welcome you on the internet by way of live stream.
I thank and welcome the faculty and staff of St. John Vianney and St Vincent de Paul Seminaries. I also thank your vocation directors, Fr. Jorge Torres and Fr. Miguel Gonzalez who have directed and guided you during your formation years. I offer a very special welcome to the families of Dcn. Luis and Dcn. Martin. We thank them for their love and support of your vocation to the priesthood. We are so happy that they can join us here today for your Ordination. We also have people joining us on live stream from around the world but especially from Colombia and Vietnam and the Diocese. We thank you for joining us in prayer and thanksgiving to God for these men who are about to ordained to the priesthood.
Pope Francis said, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful … I see the church as a field hospital.” The field hospital is one of Pope Francis’ favorite images. It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. Field hospitals, by their very nature, indicate a battleground, a struggle, suffering, confusion, emergency and they foster dialogue and encounter, conversation and meeting, consolation, compassion and the binding of wounds.
Deacon Luis and Deacon Martin you both have experienced struggles and challenges in your lives; leaving your homes and your families to come to the United States. You have experienced the struggles and challenges of learning a new language, adapting to new customs and making new friends ̶ all will benefit you in your priestly ministry. You will welcome and comfort the stranger because you too were a stranger and were welcomed and comforted.
Your calling ̶ your vocation ̶ is to serve God and His people. Being a priest with all your mind, with all your heart and with all your strength is a mission that penetrates your entire life. It is not just something you do.
Therefore I will ask you: Do you resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit to discharge without fail the office of priesthood…in caring for the Lord’s flock…. in preaching the Gospel…in celebrating the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation….in praying for salvation of all…and in respect and obedience to your bishop. You will answer, ‘Yes’, I am sure.
But your answer is not a simple yes. You are responding to Christ and His invitation to come follow Him by preaching and teaching and serving the people. It is by God’s grace that the power of the Holy Spirit works in and through your life. That makes your response possible. That makes your ministry possible. This yes comes from deep within your very being ̶ a profound desire to know, love and serve God.
In the first reading from Isaiah the prophet, we hear that the Spirit of the Lord is upon you because the Lord has anointed you. The anointing you will receive is not meant just for you; it is to flow through you to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to prisoners. You are called to go out to all the world ̶ “the power of grace comes alive and flourishes when you go out and give yourselves and the gospel to others.”
Pope Francis reminds us that, “A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed . . . when your people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: they leave Mass looking like they have heard good news.” The challenge of our priesthood today is we can get bogged down and lost in administration. This call to priesthood ̶ to total service is not a loss of self; it is not a denial of personal gifts, desires, or well-being. It is a call of surrender to the love of Christ. It is simply experiencing and living the “Joy of the Gospel.”
As priests you may think you know it all but your lives will be converted and confirmed by the simple life of the holy people of God, with whom you work and in whose hearts you live. Listen carefully and they will teach you well. Luis and Martin, like the prophets and disciples, you were called by God; you heard the call and now you are ready to serve. Born in Colombia and Vietnam, the Church of Orlando gives thanks to God and to your families. We rejoice as we ordain you to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
It is written in Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), “one cannot become a priest, believing that one has been formed in a laboratory.” No! You were formed in and by your family. Your family handed on the gift of faith to you and with all the experiences of a family of faith. Your vocations roots will help you to remember who you are and where Christ is leading and guiding you in your journey of faith. Your experience of faith in your families, in your parishes, in your Cursillio experiences, has led you to this day. You have come from a family of faith; you will be ordained by a family of faith, the Church, so you can serve a family of faith ̶ namely, the people of God. Your vocation to the priesthood is God’s gift to you; your gift to God is to serve God’s people.
Luis and Martin, St. Paul tells us the love of Christ impels you to be ambassadors for Christ because whoever is in Christ is a new creation entrusting to you the message of reconciliation. Your lives of ministry are to become like Christ and remember that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.”
Today, Luis and Martin, we welcome you to the priesthood and pray that the Lord will bless you in your ministry. I leave you with Pope Francis’ words on Corpus Christi Sunday last year. Jesus gives His Body and Blood by means of the bread and the wine, to leave us the memorial of his sacrifice of infinite love. “With this Viaticum full to overflowing with grace, the disciples have everything they need for their long journey through history, to extend the Kingdom of God to everyone.”