Visitation perfect complement to ordinations

Bishop Joseph Kopacz

(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz offers his homily from the Mass of Ordination for Father Aaron Williams and Father Nick Adam as his column this week. The ordinations were on Thursday, May 31, the Feast of the Visitation.)
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
“My sons you are now to be advanced to the order of the Presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief teacher. Meditate on the law of God: believe what you read, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach. Let the doctrine you teach be pure nourishment for the people of God. In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ. When you baptize you will bring men and women into the People of God. In the sacrament of penance you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With holy oil you will relieve and console the sick. You will offer praise and thanks to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve and to seek out and to rescue those who were lost.”
– From the Rite of Ordination
Let us accompany Mary and Elizabeth as they encounter one another in one of the most joyful moments in all of Scripture. Generations are bridged as an older woman blesses the younger.
To say that they are enthusiastic falls way short of the reality. They are two women whom the Holy Spirit has embraced and they are on fire for God. They have accepted God’s plan in their lives and they are set free. Mary stands with all who are called too young and Elizabeth with all so called past their prime. They sing today for all of the great unsung women who have turned eternity to time.
In this divine drama of salvation, we turn to Deacon Aaron and Nick who have accepted the Lord Jesus’ invitation to be disciples, friends and priests of Jesus Christ, priests of the new Covenant for the Diocese of Jackson in our day. Like Mary, their Yes to the Lord’s call was molded in their families over many years, in many ordinary ways.
We are grateful to your families for building strong foundations on which to build. Like Mary and Elizabeth, they have aligned their lives with God’s plan for them and placing a little nervousness aside, they proclaim the greatness of God and rejoice in God their savior. Called by name we have affirmed their resounding yes to be here. They are zealous to serve in the Church for the salvation of all. Their desire to spring into action is like the horse, Justify, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and soon will surge out of the gate at the Belmont. Enthusiasm, energy and zeal are the signs of an authentic vocation, making one’s life ‘something beautiful for God,’ as Mother Teresa was fond of saying.
But as we know, it’s not always 75 degrees and low humidity. Sometimes the heat index is well over 100 and we feel the burden of our responsibilities. Our first reading is one of many in the Scriptures that tells the story of the Old Testament without illusion. Moses had it to the brim with the Israelites wandering around in unbearable desert heat feeling the enormous burden of his responsibilities. “Did I conceive these people you gave me or give birth to them? They are too heavy for me to carry.”
An honest prayer which resounds in the heart of any one of our lives at times. In a profound way, Moses anticipates the Cross and the power of God at work. For God intends, through the Cross and Resurrection of his Son, that the blessings are to surpass the burdens and that the burdens can even be stepping stones to greater life, that we take our burdens and joys to prayer and for us as bishops and priests, that we live the prototype of Moses and the seventy Elders in collaboration and communion with one another and with God, sharing one another’s joys and burdens.
The second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans portrays the Gospel rhythms for a disciple, including the ordained, infused with God’s grace: sincere love — hatred of evil — holding on to the good — readiness to serve — zealous, not slackers, fervent — joyful — enduring — persevering — generous — exercising hospitality — blessing one another with the example of Mary and Elizabeth – accompanying people in joy and sorrow — humble — and wise with gospel wisdom. These virtues enable the ordained to attend to the things of Christ, to have his mind and heart. Their cultivation will empower us in our vocations to serve the Lord with gladness, even in the heat of the day.
We know that each of the mysteries of the rosary: joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous overflow with divine life. In the Visitation encounter with Elizabeth, Mary of Nazareth, Our Lady of Promptness, signifies the Church who is prompt to go where needed, to serve and to accompany God’s people in our families and with neighbor and stranger alike.
Mary and Elizabeth dancing together over their unborn children, exemplify the Church who reverences life and the dignity of the human person at all stages, evident in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and in our commitment to Social Justice.
Proclaiming the Greatness of the Lord and rejoicing in God their Savior represents the Church who joyfully celebrates the Sacred Mysteries, especially in the Eucharist, the life-giving death and resurrection of the Lord, this sacred sacrificial meal at which we celebrate God’s mercy and receive strength for the journey in Word and Sacrament.
With hearts overflowing with God’s love we joyfully accompany Deacon Aaron and Deacon Nick as they lay down their lives in the Rite of Ordination to embrace the priesthood of Jesus Christ.