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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Incredible Ordination Homily from Archbishop Burke

Priesthood Ordinations: 'Become More and More One With the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd'

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke preached the following homily on the occasion of the Mass for the ordination of Fathers Matthew Barnard, Patrick Driscoll, Brian Hecktor, Michael Houser, Eric Kunz, Edward Nemeth, Kevin Schroeder, James Theby, and Noah Waldman, May 24, 2008, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The scriptural texts on which Archbishop Burke preached were Isaiah 61:1-3 (Reading I); Hebrews 5:1-10 (Reading II); and John 17:6, 14-19 (Gospel).

Ordinands prostrate themselves for the chanting of the Litany of Saints during the Rite of Ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, May 24, 2008. (Photo: Jeff Geerling) To the congregation:
[Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of Priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.]

[It is true that God has made His entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest Himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in His name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father, and He, in turn, sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the bishops, He might continue to exercise His office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.]

The Holy Spirit, dwelling in His fullness in our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, is poured forth upon those called to the ordained priesthood, in order that they may act in the person of Christ, head and shepherd of the Father's flock. Through His priests, Christ, head and shepherd of the flock, teaches and sanctifies and guides all men of every time and place. The prophecy regarding the anointed of the Lord, given through the prophet Isaiah, has been fulfilled in Christ who has indeed freed us from the slavery of sin and everlasting death, and has inaugurated "a year of favor from the Lord," which continues without end in His holy Church (Reading I). Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, pours out the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit in the anointing of priests who, by a particular vocation and mission, continue to announce in His person the Gospel of freedom from sin, freedom for everlasting life.

As He was about to enter upon His passion and death, the culmination of His great work of salvation, Christ, our high priest, prayed for the Apostles, those first called to the priestly office. In His prayer, He made clear that His priests share in the mission given to Him by the Father, that He consecrates them for their mission which is indeed His mission, and that, although they belong totally to the Father, He sends them into the world to carry out His mission (Gospel). In the ordination of priests, we witness the truth proclaimed by the sacred author of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (Reading II). In the ordained priest, Christ Himself continues to be our priest always, "according to the order of Melchizedek."

[After mature deliberation, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the Presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry His Body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the People of God, a holy temple.]

[In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God's people, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord's sacrifice.]

Because of the supremely sacred nature of the ministry for which our sons and brothers are about to be consecrated, pray for them daily, so that they may always and in everything conform themselves to the grace conferred upon them in ordination, that they may be holy shepherds of the flock whom God the Father entrusts to their pastoral care. By your love of the Sacred Priesthood, help them to see the sublime truth and beauty of their priestly vocation, and to conform their every thought, their every word and their every action to their priestly identity and mission.

To the candidates:
[Now, dear sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part, you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the Word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach.] By your manner of preaching and teaching, bring souls to Christ who alone frees them from their sins, frees them for the love of God and their neighbor, which is the way to eternal life. Through your person consecrated totally to God, Christ, our great High Priest, will continue to offer Himself for the "eternal salvation of all who obey Him" (Reading II).

By priestly consecration, you will belong totally to Christ the Good Shepherd. Christ Himself consecrates you, so that your priestly heart made be one with His glorious pierced Heart in the outpouring of self in love of the brethren, without boundary or condition. Give your lives for those whom Christ entrusts to your priestly care, and never cease to seek out those who do not know Christ, their Savior, or, having known Him, have wandered from Him. Give yourselves without seeking any consolation or reward, trusting that the Providence of God will, in His God's good time, bring forth the fruit of your labors.

Treasure the grace of priestly celibacy which you have received from God, and by which you love and serve Christ with all your being. You belong totally to Christ, in every thought and affection. Your celibate love is a participation in the total and enduring love of Christ, the bridegroom, for His bride, the Church; it flows from the glorious Heart of Jesus pierced for love of all mankind (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, n.24). At the dawn of each day, renew your celibate love of Christ and of your brothers and sisters in Christ. By your celibate love, be a source of strength to all whom you serve, so that their love of one another may be always chaste and holy.

If you are to act in the person of Christ for the Father's flock, if you are to be, in Christ, a true spiritual father, then you must know Christ deeply and love Him ardently. Treasure, above all else, the grace of priestly ordination, which you are about to receive. Do not be deceived by the "fierce wolves," who surely come among us in all forms of attractive disguise, tempting us to betray our union with Christ, our most beloved Brother in the priesthood, and leading us to become of the world, instead of being totally of God for the salvation of the world (cf. Acts 20:28-32). Be uncompromisingly loyal and selfless apostles of Christ, drawing all to His glorious pierced Heart, from which He never ceases to pour out upon the world the grace of the Holy Spirit, the mercy and love of God the Father.

In praying for His Apostles, before entering upon His passion and death, Christ, deeply conscious of how the world would hate them because of Him, prayed that the Father would "keep them from the Evil One" (Gospel). You will suffer in the world because of your loyalty as an apostle of Christ. Trust that the Father will safeguard and strengthen you always, and know that what you suffer in carrying out faithfully your apostolic ministry will bring countless graces to the flock in your care and to the whole Body of Christ. Never give way to doubt and discouragement. By your steadfast obedience to the teaching and discipline of Christ in the Church, you will unite your flock to Him who is the only source of their lasting joy and peace.

[In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ's faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God's Church.]

Be always loyal to the Roman Pontiff, who, as successor to Saint Peter, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful" (Lumen gentium, n. 23). Be vigilant against the incursion of those who, in every age, seek to divide, confuse and scatter the flock. Recall that Satan always seeks first to strike the shepherds, in order to scatter the whole flock (cf. Zechariah 13:7). By your daily offering of the Holy Mass, by your daily prayers and devotions, especially to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests, and by the regular confession of your sins, fortify yourselves against the wiles of the forces of evil, fortify yourselves to be tireless and true in your care of the flock.

[{Y}ou will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For, by your ministry, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the {sacred mysteries}. Understand, therefore, what you do, and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful, and to walk in newness of life.]

[Remember, when you gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance; when you comfort the sick with holy oil and celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the whole world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ.]

Take care always, therefore, to prepare well the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals. Your faithfully loving service of the Father's flock is best and most fully expressed by the manner of your celebration of the sacred rites. By the manner of your celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the faithful will understand most fully the truths of the faith, which you hand on to them through your teaching and urge them to practice in their daily living. Regarding your offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, I recall for you the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: "The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality" (Pope Benedict XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, "On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission," February 22, 2007, n. 23). By your attentive study of the liturgical books and by your reverence in carrying out the sacred rites, assist the faithful to recognize more clearly Christ who alone makes them holy.

Pray each day that your hearts may become more and more one with the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, ask our Lord daily to purify your minds of distractions and your hearts of wrong affections, so that your minds may be filled with holy thoughts and your hearts may be aflame with pure and selfless love. By the union of your hearts with the Heart of Jesus, let Christ reign in your lives, so that, through the outpouring of your lives in obedient service, He may draw all hearts to His glorious pierced Heart from which flows unceasingly the grace of salvation. One in heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, be filled with wonder and love before the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. See in the daily offering of the Holy Mass your priestly identity and your greatest service to God's holy people.

Entrust yourselves to Mary, Mother of Priests, who will draw you always to her Son, in whose person you are consecrated to serve. Our Blessed Mother knows better than any other human being the trials and the difficulties which you will encounter in your priestly ministry, and she, with a mother's love, will never fail to be at your side, to encourage you and to console you in any trial or difficulty. Be, therefore, daily at the side of the Virgin Mary by praying the Holy Rosary. One with her in love of Christ, her Divine Son, ponder, with her, in your heart the great mysteries of our faith, of which you are to be the priestly minister.

As good and holy shepherds, be attentive to guide God's people in the way of justice which leads to lasting peace. Promote the respect for all human life from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death, especially the life of our unborn brothers and sisters, and of our brothers and sisters who are burdened by special needs, illness, or advanced age. Safeguard the integrity of the marital union and of human procreation. Your priestly teaching and guidance will inspire and strengthen all of the faithful in the transformation of the culture of violence and death, in which we live, into a civilization of selfless love and life. Be attentive to those who suffer injustices in our society, especially the immigrant and refugee, and be, for them, the sign of God's all-merciful love. I recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of our nation, during his recent apostolic journey:

Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel (Pope Benedict XVI, "Washington: National Shrine, Bishops' Address, April 16: 'Rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centered life via the virtues and prayer,' L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, April 23, 2008, p. 3).

Help those in your pastoral care to grow in understanding our solemn responsibility to be good stewards of God's manifold gifts, above all, the gift of human life, and to give faithful witness to the Divine Law in "the public square."

[Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, head and shepherd, while united with the bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.]

May you so live your priestly vocation and carry out your priestly mission that, when you have reached the fullness of the days of your earthly pilgrimage, Christ, your Brother, will welcome you, His good and faithful apostle, into the everlasting happiness of Heaven. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization; Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church; and Saint Louis of France, Saint Vincent de Paul, and Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, our archdiocesan patrons, intercede for you, that you may be faithful and generous shepherds after the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.

The parts of the homily in brackets are taken from"“Chapter II: Ordination of Priests," in Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, Second Typical Edition, from The Roman Pontifical as renewed by the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, published by authority of Pope Paul VI, and further revised at the direction of Pope John Paul II, Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003, pp. 74-76 (n. 123).

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