By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Fittingly, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, I experience the abundant life that Jesus promised in his life-giving death and resurrection. Sacramentally, the oil of Chrism flows in abundance in the celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation throughout the diocese. In a distinct way the sacred Chrism anoints the hands of the newly ordained priests, now configured to Jesus Christ through Holy Orders. We joyfully welcome Father Mark Shoffner and Father Adolfo Suarez-Pasillas as priests in the Diocese of Jackson. Ad multos annos!
To work in the Vineyard of the Lord Jesus in the Church for the salvation of all has been a challenge for every generation since the moment of the resurrection. The struggle has intensified in the world that we know. Emeritus Pope Benedict noted this, not for the first time, ten years ago. “In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God, not just any god, but the God who spoke on Mount Sinai, to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses to the end, in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. To counter God’s receding and disappearance from the human horizon, leading men and women to God, who speaks in the Bible, is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church.” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church 2009)
All of the baptized are called to further the Church’s mission, and those whom the Lord calls into Holy Orders are set apart in a unique way to embrace the mind and heart of Jesus Christ to advance the Kingdom of God.
Leading men and women to God is the essential work of the ordained. The demands of this way of life are crystal clear in the promises of those ordained as priests. The following is an overview of the vows of Holy Orders, captured in the prayer of ordination. “Do your part in the work of Christ the priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.”
- Promise to discharge the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank as worthy fellow workers with the Order of Bishops.
- Promise to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.
- Promise to celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ handed down by the Church, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people.
- Promise to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to their care by observing the command to pray without ceasing. 5. Promise to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice and to consecrate themselves to God for the salvation of all.
This weekend the Diocese of Jackson celebrates the ordination of Cesar Sanchez and Andrew Nguyen into the transitional diaconate. All who are ordained as priests deepen the vows of celibacy and obedience promised as deacons. “By your own free choice you seek to enter the order of deacons. You shall exercise the ministry in the celibate state for celibacy is both a sign and a motive of pastoral charity, and a special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. By living in this state with total dedication, moved by sincere love for Christ the Lord, you are consecrated to him in a new and special way.”
In the prayer of consecration over the deacon is revealed the soul and purpose of the vocation. “May he excel in every virtue, in love that is sincere, in concern for the sick and the poor, in unassuming authority, in self-discipline, and in holiness of life…May he in this life imitate your Son, who came, not be served but to serve, and one day reign with him in heaven.”
Pope Francis in his Chrism Mass Homily this year shares his wisdom with all priests, newly ordained and for those who have borne the heat of the day for many years. “The Lord never lost that direct contact with people. Amid those crowds, he always kept the grace of closeness with the people as a whole, and with each individual. We see this throughout his public life, and so it was from the beginning: the radiance of the Child Jesus gently attracted shepherds, kings and elderly dreamers like Simeon and Anna.
So it was on the Cross: His heart draws all people to himself: Veronicas, Cyreneans, thieves, centurions… The Crowds gathered to hear him, and then needed to be fed. At that point the Lord’s vision contrasted with the small mindedness of the disciples, whose attitude toward the people bordered on cruelty when they suggest to the Lord that they send them away, so that they could get something to eat. Here, I believe was the beginning of clericalism: in this desire to be assured of a meal and personal comfort without any concern for the people. The Lord cut short that temptation: “You give them something to eat”! was Jesus response. “Take care of the people.”
Or, put simply, as the priestly prayer of consecration for the newly ordained proclaims: “Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.” Thank you to all the faithful for your prayer for our priests and for future vocations. Thank you to all who have answered the call, those ordained for days or for decades. “May the Lord who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”