My dear brothers bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians; dear religious and consecrated men and women, and all of you brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are celebrating this morning a special moment of grace and joy as we ordain our brothers — Manuel, Chan, Eben and Nabor — to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
This is a beautiful moment in the life of our Archdiocese and it’s a chance for all of us to reflect on the mystery of the holy priesthood of Jesus Christ.
We just heard this passage from the Gospel of John today. It’s taken from the final discourse that Jesus spoke to his apostles in the upper room at the Last Supper. And there’s a reason we hear this reading today. It’s because the words we are hearing come from the “original” ordination. The first one. The one from which all other ordinations come.
Jesus in this moment at the Last Supper, is ordaining his Twelve apostles. He is consecrating them to serve — to celebrate the Eucharist, to proclaim his Gospel of love and to Shepherd God’s people.
And in a few moments, my brothers, Jesus will be consecrating you — through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration. This is the beautiful mystery of Holy Orders.
You are about to become links in a sacred chain. A chain of grace and spiritual power that extends all the way back to that upper room in Jerusalem, all those many centuries ago.
As Jesus chose his Twelve — today he is choosing you. He is choosing you to live in his love, as his servants and as his friends. He is choosing you to stand in his place, to minister in his person — in persona Christi.
He is calling you to do what he did.
That’s why we heard that first reading today from the prophet Isaiah. Because what Isaiah was talking about was the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The ancient and eternal priesthood that you are about to enter.
You are being called to do what Isaiah prophesied and Jesus did.
You are being called to proclaim good news to the lowly. To heal the hearts that are broken by sin. To bring joy to people who thought they could never know love and never be free.
Jesus came to serve — not to be served. He came to love. Jesus calls you today to this service of love.
And each of you, my brothers, has answered “yes” to Jesus. What a beautiful gift you are giving to him — and to all of us in his holy Church. The gift of your own lives, offered in this service of love.
My brothers, like the apostles, you have come from different places. You have each come from different walks of life. Today, the many different paths you have walked are joined to the one way of the cross — to the path that follows Jesus.
As you know, I think a lot about the saints. I ask for their help all the time. That’s a practice I recommend to you, my brothers. Be friends with the saints!
We all have our “favorite” saints and, I think that we Bishops and priests need to know more about the lives and ministry of so many holy Priests that preceded us. They are great examples for us and they can intercede for us too!
We should invoke some of these saintly priests today and ask their intercession for you. We should ask prayers today from St. Andrew Dae-gun Kim, the first priest of Korea, a holy man and a heroic martyr. From Father Eusebio Kino, the holy apostle of Arizona. From Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, who helped evangelize in Ohio.
Of course, because of the new movie, “For Greater Glory,” I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the great Cristeros priests from Mexico. These were some of my heroes when I became a priest. And I was thinking about one of them as I thought about your priesthood.
Like you, St. David Uribe Velasco was ordained to be an ordinary diocesan priest. He was in the diocese of Cuernavaca. And during the time of the persecution, he became one of many priests who risked their lives to celebrate Mass and hear confessions and carry on his priestly ministry to the people.
Eventually he was arrested and sentenced to death. Before they executed him he said something very beautiful. He said: “I have been anointed with the holy oil that makes me a priest of the Most High. So why shouldn’t I be anointed with my own blood to defend souls who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ?”2
This is what your priesthood means, my brothers. You are being anointed for a mission of love. The love of souls redeemed by Christ. This is the love that Jesus is calling you to today by your ordination.
Love means making your life a gift that you offer to God in the service to others. This is the love that Jesus showed us on the cross, in laying down his Body and Blood for us. This is the love you will make real again every day at the altar in the holy Eucharist.
My brothers, to be a priest of the Most High God is the most beautiful work that any of us could ever hope to do on this earth. So treasure your priesthood! Let it be the joy of your life!
Let us all pray every day that Jesus will call many more men to this beautiful work of being his priests.
And may Our Lady of the Angels, the Blessed Mother of this great Archdiocese, keep us faithful to the commandments of her Son, the commandment to love as he loved.
1. Readings (Ordination of Priests, Year B): Isa. 61:1-3; Ps. 89; Heb. 5:1-10; John 15:9-17.
2. Ann Ball, Faces of Holiness (our Sunday Visitor, 1998), 64.