ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
of Brother Mathew Farrell of the Order of Preachers
Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Saviour, 6th July 2019
This afternoon is a moment of great joy for you Brother Matthew and for your family and friends and for the entire Irish Dominican province.
Brother Mathew is to be ordained a priest and a priest of the Dominican Order. Through his ordination, these two strands will be united in a personal calling and mission and the gift of spiritual power to act in persona Christi.
Priestly ordination enables the priest to act in persona Christi. The rite of ordination reminds us however the call to act in persona Christi requires that the priest “must imitate the mystery he celebrates and model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross”.
We come in prayer to call down the Holy Spirit on Matthew; we pray that from this moment on, he will constantly strive to allow the message and the ministry of Jesus to appear authentically through the witness of his own life.
At this moment, the liturgy asks the Bishop not just to preach a homily on the sacred texts, but also to instruct the candidate to be ordained on the priesthood.
The first thing that comes to my mind faced with the challenge of instructing someone about priesthood is to reflect on the inadequacies of my own ministry. Who am I to instruct a young man about to be ordained about how to witness adequately in his life to the person of Jesus Christ, knowing the poverty of my own witness?
The prayer of consecration that I shall pray in a few moments presents a deep vision of the theology of priesthood. It is not enough, however, to know that theology; the priest is called to make his own what that theology means.
The priest is called to witness to the God who is mercy, to the Jesus who came to serve. I can only attempt to speak about my presently ministry when I recognise that it is Jesus himself alone who allows me to be his minister despite my poverty and my sinfulness.
Ordination is not a distinction to be attained but a gift to be received. Ministry in the Church is never something through which I as an individual seek to promote myself. Celebrity ministry inevitably turns out to be celebration of myself alone and who I think I am.
When we become self-centered or use ministry for our own self-aggrandisement that we can quickly fall into that arrogance which is the very one thing that drives sinners away from Jesus and damages the very nature of the Church.
Matthew you are called to witness to the person of Jesus in the concrete world of today and to accompany the men and women you encounter on their journey to experience what being close to Jesus means. You are called to help them comprehend how the encounter with the God of mercy is what empowers us and gives meaning and purpose to our lives. You are called to lead them in prayer and in the Eucharist and help build up the Church in Communion.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus finds himself surrounded by tax collectors and sinners and the Pharisees are scandalised. The priest must be happier to be the friend of sinners than of those who our worldly society consider its stars and the personalities. When Jesus tells us that he came to call sinners rather than the virtuous, he is also telling us that the more we consider ourselves the virtuous the greater the probability that we are sinners.
Jesus knows us for who we are and in his mysterious design he calls us knowing that we are sinners. Christianity it is not religion of personal or collective triumphalism but neither is it a religion of masochism and negativity. In our encounter with Jesus, we recognise that we are sinners but we also note that, the one who came to heal sinners, calls us by name. He does not debate or bargain with us, he does not invite us to a talk show. He calls us and the only response to the call of Jesus is to respond as Matthew did: in trust, he got up and followed Jesus immediately.
Recognising our inadequacy is not an excuse for paralysis or quibbling about our call. In our second reading, Saint Paul reminded us that he had learned “to manage on whatever he had”. Recognising that his security did not come from earthly possession he could say, “there is nothing I cannot master with help of the One who gives me strength”. He recognises that his strength is not from his own ideas and achievement and he reminds us that it is in the mysterious abandoning of ourselves into the loving embrace of Jesus that we come to experience that the “God of peace will be with us”.
Matthew you are called through priestly ordination to act in persona Christi, to bring the light and the peace that flows from the message of Jesus to those who in our world suffer uncertainty and doubt and darkness about themselves and about their future. You are called to bring the challenging message of Jesus Christ to those who are over confident in worldly values that do not endure.
What do I say to you, how do I instruct you. There are many in our Church and in our society who are uncertain about the ministry of the priest. Priests themselves often live with doubt about the value of their ministry. There are priests who say that they would not recommend a young man today to take on the ministry of the priest.
There are however the many who deep down have experienced the wisdom and the peace that comes from an encounter with a priest as someone whose witness in humility and poverty to the greatness and the richness of the message of Jesus led then to new hope and purpose.
Matthew the validity of your ministry will not come from self-vindication. You will have noticed that in answer to the question about your worthiness for ordination, the answer was that this was ascertained “by inquiry among the people of Christ”, and only in a secondary way by the recommendation of those concerned with your training.
Christ’s people measure the effectiveness of priestly ministry by a true sensus fidelium that recognises the authenticity of how you really identify with the Jesus you call down on the altar bringing his sacrificial love among us.
That authenticity is what will bring you joy and fulfilment in your ministry in good times and in difficult times. Be assured of the prayers of all us of that the good work you have undertaken up until this day will be brought by the Lord to its fulfilment and pray for this bishop called in all humility to instruct you.