25th Sunday 2011
ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
OF BROTHERS DENIS MURRAY AND MAURICE COLGAN
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Church of Saint Saviour, Dominick Street, 18th September 2011
Once again this morning we join in the joy of the Irish Dominican Province as we prepare for the priestly ordination of two of its members, Brother Denis Murphy and Brother Maurice Colgan. We ask the Lord to pour out his Holy Spirit on these two young men and to accompany them in their lives. We pray that they will render fruitful ministry as Dominican priests and find joy and fulfilment in their priestly lives.
We congratulate their families, their friends, the faith communities out of which they spring and those who have been involved in their personal, intellectual and Christian formation until now.
Before we listen to God’s word let us first prepare ourselves by opening our hearts to recognise our inadequacies and sinfulness and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness which frees us all to serve him with joy and generosity.
The Rite of the Ordination of Priests is one of the most significant Rites in the entire liturgy of the Church. At its centre is a very simple act, that of the laying on of hands. It is one of the oldest symbols of the Christian liturgy, tracing its roots way back into the liturgical acts in the Old Testament.
The laying on of hands is a gesture of transmitting office and ministry. It is an invocation of the Spirit on one who is called to follow Christ more closely. It is also, in the rite of ordination of priests, a gesture of communion. All the priests present at the liturgy lay on hands as a sign of the incorporation of the newly ordained into the order of priests, a college of priests who share in the one ministry of the Church.
Ordination is not just a personal blessing. Being a priest is not a solo enterprise. The ministry of the priest is a calling to service in the Church, not something that I myself determine and define. The call to priesthood is a call to share in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The priest is called to act “in persona Christi”, he is enabled to act “in persona Christi” not by his own power but by being configured in a special and unique way to Christ. He must therefore also live “in persona Christi”; he must consider his configuration with Christ in the sacrament of orders not as a privilege or as a licence to personal protagonism, but as a call to ecclesial service.
The priest is charged with preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, forgiving and reconciling in the name of Jesus, sustaining God’s people and celebrating the Lord sacrifice. If the priest is configured in a special way with Christ, then his life must be a continual reflection and exploration of the life and witness of Jesus himself. The priest must be one who knows the word of God, who understands the word of God, who can break the word of God. The word of God must be the source of direction in his own life so that he can break the Word in such a way that it becomes a source of meaning and hope for others, helping them to become like Christ.
The priest is called to be a witness to and the minister of the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ, as the way, the truth and the life. The priest – and especially one called to exercise the Dominican charism – must be a true teacher in the faith. The Rite of Ordination tells the new priest: “apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher”. It urges the priest to “share with all humankind the word of God you have received with joy…” It calls on the priest to “Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach”. The priest must be a teacher, but one whose teaching is authenticated by his own way of life. In order to be a credible preacher of the truth the priest must also be a credible witness to the truth.
The priest today is called to be a witness to the truth within a world where the fundamental Christian understanding about life’s values is often challenged. The first reading reminded us that God has always challenged and turned upside down the dominant values of the cultures in which his people found themselves “My thoughts are not your thoughts”; the Lord reminded us in the first reading, “my ways are not your ways”. And in the second reading he cautions all of us: “Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ”.
The preacher in the Christian community is never the minister of his own words, but of the Word. Ministry of the Word means becoming like the Word, in communion with the Father, It means the preacher lives in his life the abnegation and self-giving of Jesus. Ministry involves participation in the Sacrifice of Christ. Without such renunciation of self, our preaching will only be a projection of ourselves, of our words, rather than the proclamation of the Word.
The abnegation and renunciation required in following the way of Jesus is not however repression, but fulfilment, since belief in his name gives us power to be children of God, to share in our flesh the fruits of his sacrificial self-giving.
Denis and Maurice, I pray that your ministry will be one of a fidelity to the Word and a witness of the joy that that liberating Word brings us. It is impossible to witness to the generosity of God through small-heartedness or introversion.
There are many reasons to be gloomy and downhearted in the Church today. Ministry is challenging. Scandals have weakened the witness of the Church. Our tried and tested ways of ministry are showing themselves to be tired. We see so many good and idealistic and generous young people go about their search for goodness without any real reference to the Church of Jesus Christ. We are not adequately reaching out to the future generations and captivating them with a fascination for Jesus and his teaching.
It is easy in times of great cultural change and challenge to become insecure and fearful as individuals and as a Church. It is easy to retreat into a closed comfort zone or into a form of protectionism of how things seemed to have been in the past. When the Church becomes inwardly concerned about its own self interest, then it can quickly looses its ability to preach the word of God as a word which frees and transforms. When I as a bishop or a priest become closed in on myself and my own concerns then I can become blind to or even reject the goodness and the transforming generosity of God which is the source of our ministry.
Curiously one could say that those, in today’s Gospel, whom the Master called to his vineyard at the beginning of the day, were in many ways the privileged ones. In a precarious employment market, they were the chosen ones with the security of a good wage. Quickly their own self-security dominated and made them jealous and resentful of the generosity of the Master. There are memories here of the resentment of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son.
To our modern sensitivities, the behaviour of the Master of the Vineyard seems curious and puzzling, even unjust. The Master in the parable is not unjust. He pays what is considered a just salary to all. Those who began at the early hour receive a full salary, the same as they would have received the day before had they been working, and the same as they would have received the following day for the same hours.
What emerges from the Gospel reading is that the justice of Jesus goes way beyond our ideas of justice. Jesus is not just, he is generous. His love takes us way beyond the demands of justice. His love for us is superabundant; it goes way beyond what we deserve and what we merit. This is certainly very different from our world when everything is measured in its minimum details and you get exactly what you deserve or pay for. Human effort is treated so often just as merchandise and a kind of equality is established in which the person is measured in purely quantities terms or even worse just in terms of their usefulness.
Denis and Maurice, The first thing we have to do in our search for God is to let God surprise us. On our own we will never know God in the depth of his meaning and generosity.
You are called now to be ministers of universal law of love to all you encounter on your path and to all whose journey you will be called to share. You have to bring that love to those who have never encountered it. You have to bring that love to those who have rejected Christ’s message because they never encountered it as a message of love. The Christian life is not a collection of rules and formulas which are imposed on the individual, but the message about a person – Jesus Christ – who comes out to meet us in our sinfulness filled generously with love, compassion and forgiveness.
Denis and Maurice my prayer is that in your life and ministry you will experience that generous love of Jesus in your own hearts and that you will respond by witnessing to that love with joy and generosity