May 24, 2014 - Cardinal's Homily for the 2014 Ordination
Earlier today, Cardinal Seán ordained nine men to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Please join in congratulating Father Jeffrey Scott Archer, Father Steven Clemence, Father Peter Francis DeFazio, Father George E. Fitzsimmons, Father Kevin Thomas Hickey, Father Karlo Joseph Hocuscak, Father Mark Douglas Storey, Father Lawrence Michael Tocci and Father Jiwon Yoon as they begin their priestly ministry.
Following is the Cardinal's Homily from today. Information is listed below regarding the rebroadcast, photos and coverage of the celebration.
Good Shepherd – Ordination to the Priesthood - Homily
May 23, 2014
Today’s criticism of Jesus in the Gospel, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” is what occasions today’s teaching about the shepherd and the lost sheep. Just as when the Pharisees criticized Jesus with the very same complaint about the party at Levi, and Zacchaeus’ place.
Jesus is the friend of sinners and is always reaching out to those who are on the margins and He brings them center stage; the tax collector and prostitutes, the beggars, the blind, the lame and the halt.
Today’s Gospel describes the Good Shepherd who is willing to leave the company of the 99 and seek out the one lost sheep. We might be tempted to say, let the one lost sheep be an insurance claim or a tax write off.
The shepherd seeks his lost sheep with determination until he finds it. And when he finds it He carries it on his shoulders with great joy. The bishop’s vestments speak to us of our pastoral responsibilities. The crosier, the crook, is to ward off the wolves and coyotes and to rescue the lambs that stray into harmful paths.
The pallium is made from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of St. Agnes and woven by the Benedictine nuns and kept on top of the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica. It is supposed to represent the figure of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb on his shoulders. The black on the ends is supposed to symbolize the hoofs of the sheep. Each Archbishop receives the pallium from the Pope. This pallium I received from the hand of Pope Saint John Paul II.
Let it be a reminder to all of us that the Good Shepherd carries the lost sheep home rejoicing. The image of the Good Shepherd is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in the early Christian art in the Catacombs of Rome, before Christian imagery could be more explicit. A cross was never displayed. It was too dangerous.
The form of the image showing a young man carrying a lamb around his neck was directly borrowed from the older pagan statues called kriophoros which means: “The lamb bearer” and referred to the pagan god Hermes.
The Christians used it as a clandestine symbol since Jesus uses the metaphor of the Good Shepherd as one of the principal ways to communicate who He is, His love and care for us and His willingness to lay down His life for each of us.
Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass homily last year made quite a splash by his statement that the shepherd should have the smell of the sheep. I proposed a sniff test for last year’s ordination class.
In this year’s masterful Chrism homily, the Holy Father reminds us priests that in our priestly ordination, Christ has anointed us with the oil of gladness. We must appreciate the great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy, the Holy Father says “is a priceless treasure not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God.
Pope Francis says that the priest is anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness. The Holy Father says priestly joy has three significant features. He has a great line, the Pope says “It is a joy which anoints us (not one that “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous); it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us.
I would like to reflect for a moment on this missionary joy of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd has a special love and concern for the one who is farthest away, most ungrateful, perhaps even hostile to the rest of the flock. The Good Shepherd does not say that recalcitrant rebel deserves to be eaten by the wolf or end up as road kill on the highway of life, but rather risks all to pursue the lost sheep and does not stop until he finds it. And when he finds that lost sheep, he does not beat it with a stick or yell at it. The Good Shepherd lifts the sheep and places him lovingly on his shoulders and carries him home. And then the Good Shepherd assembles his friends and neighbors as the Gospel tells us and invites them, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”
Today, the Good Shepherd is saying to our ordinands, “Rejoice with me”. Have this same missionary joy, always anxious to seek out and find the lost sheep. Let that be your passion and the source of your joy. It even causes joy in Heaven.
Last Thursday we gathered at the Pastoral Center for a ceremony to launch the process of Beatification for the Servant of God, Fr. Joseph Muzquiz, who worked for many years in the Archdiocese of Boston. Fr. Joseph used to say that when a salesman makes a sale, he gets a commission. If he makes no sale, he gets nothing. On the other hand when we present the Gospel, reach out to a sinner, try to convince the lost sheep, we get the commission just for trying.
The keen realization that we are moving from a cultural Catholicism to an intentional Catholicism, underscores the need to be an energetic evangelizer, never passing up an opportunity to invite, to encourage, to evangelize.
The second reading from tomorrow’s Mass is taken from the first letter of Peter; our first Papal Encyclical declares: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”
The priest today cannot be absconded in the rectory waiting for the lost sheep to come and ring the door bell; he must go out. Pope Francis says that when a priest tries to find his priestly identity by soul searching and introspection, may well encounter “exit” signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what is entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve Him.
Whoever is in Christ, is a new creation as St. Paul tells us. Your ordination makes you a new creation and an instrument of reconciliation in a world fraught by division.
You are Christ’s ambassadors, His messengers, His reconcilers. One of the greatest joys of a priest is to bring those words of comfort – Go in peace, your sins are forgiven. That means more than giving someone a million dollars, the assurance of God’s love and mercy.
To be a good confessor, you must be a good penitent. Use the sacrament of God’s mercy to deepen your own conversion. What a great photo of Pope Francis going to confession in St. Peter’s.
The confessional is the emergency room of the field hospital that is the Church. Learn to be a man of compassion and mercy so as to help your people experience God’s healing mercy.
Jesus makes use of the shepherd image to describe God’s unfailing concern for those who have gone astray. Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for the sheep. Jesus even quotes from the prophet Zechariah: “They shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” But Jesus, the Risen Lord, returns as the Good Shepherd to gather those scattered disciples and frightened followers to Himself.
One important feature of the shepherding image in Scriptures is courage. The courage of Jesus is both strong and gentle. Above all, it is courage for others, not a courage for his own defense or aggrandizement.
There is courage in the words of Jesus. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus us put to the test and challenged by His opponents. Should we render tribute to Caesar? Should we stone this adulterous woman? Why do you heal on the Sabbath? Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus’ answers are both calm and fearless. They spring from an inner strength that comes from His oneness with the Father. There is courage in the actions of Jesus. He touches lepers and speaks to the possessed. He rides into Jerusalem knowing that His enemies are watching every move. He boldly drives the moneychangers from the temple.
There is courage in the sufferings of Jesus. He willingly shares the lot of the poor, the homeless, the exiled. He rejects the comforts of family and possessions. He accepts the friendship of those who misunderstand Him, and even betray and deny Him. He overcomes temptations and in His agony in Gethsemane, finds a way to bend His fear and sorrow to the Father’s Will.
He endures taunts, flogging and crucifixion because He knows that it is the way love requires.
Such is the courage of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the Flock.
Too often we lack the courage that shepherding requires. We lean desperately on the goodwill and praise of others or on the reassurance of possessions and of social standing, because we lack trust in our own worth without these external validations. When we lack an inner wholeness, we do not have the grace to speak to others with both tenderness and strength. It matters too much that the other is pleased and too little whether we speak the truth. We cannot be shepherds so long as comfort is our main concern and so long as the roads through the wilderness are too lonely and too dangerous for us.
We will find that courage to lead God’s people, only through our prayer life and the support of priestly fraternity. Without Him, we can do nothing. Without each other, we can do little.
The Good Shepherd was born in Bethlehem, which means the House of Bread, and was laid in a manger, a feed box.
Today, the tabernacle is the manger and we are the shepherds called to feed Christ’s flock. We must be men of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity; we who eat of the one loaf become one body.
We must work tirelessly to achieve unity and fellowship in Christ’s Church.
The Good Shepherd washes the feet of the disciples and entrusts to us the mission of feeding new generations of disciples. Jesus asks us as He did Peter, Do you love me…then feed my sheep.There is so much spiritual hunger in our world, waiting to be fed by faithful shepherds.
May Mary, Mother of the Divine Shepherd, make you priests according to her Son’s own heart. May your ministry abound with the missionary joy, born of giving your life for God’s people and seeking out those who have stormed off, dozed off, or just drifted away. Put them lovingly on your shoulders and rejoice with the Good Shepherd.
The CatholicTV Network will rebroadcast the Mass at 8PM ET this evening. Please visit www.catholictv.com.
George Martell of Pilot New Media was photo blogging from the Cathedral. Please visit www.BostonCatholicPhotos.com to view the photos.
The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, has feature profiles of all the candidates in this week’s edition (Friday, May 23RD issue). Look to next week’s edition (Friday, May 30,2014) for full coverage of the ordination. For more information please visit www.pilotcatholicnews.com.