Here is the homily from today’s ordination ceremony. I’ll be back later with photos. Please join the Diocese of Cheyenne in grateful prayers for the gift of these two new priests; Rev. Bob Rodgers and Rev. Brian Hess.
There are very few moments in a local church filled with the kind of joy and hope as when the People of God gather to ordain new priests. Deacon Bob and Deacon Brian, you have just been formally called to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and to join the Order of Priests, to share in the Eternal Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The simple gesture of your change of seats speaks volumes. Just a few moments ago you were seated with your family, seated in the assembly of the faithful. Now, you have been ‘called forth’ from your family, ‘called forth’ from the congregation, ‘set apart’ for consecration and service.
Before I discuss the implications of this simple gesture for each of you, I wish to briefly reflect upon its significance for the Church.
First of all, every priest comes from a family. Every priest is a gift to the Church, given by God, but given through his parents and family. To you, Jim and Kim, Neil and Connie and to your families, I wish to express our deep gratitude for the precious gift of your sons and brothers. One of my very regular prayers is that more and more parents will help their children discover God’s will for their lives, while at the same time rejoice to offer a son to God for service to the Church as a priest.
Also, we note that just as these sons, these future priests come forth from a family; they also come forth from a parish family. So, to Our Lady of Fatima in Casper and to this Cathedral parish, we say ‘thank you’ today for nurturing the faith and vocation of each of these men. To the rest of our parishes, a word of encouragement to take note, that a priestly vocation is just one sign, though a significant one, of a vibrant, faith-filled community. We look forward to many more such vocations to the priesthood to flow from the families and parishes of this diocese.
Now, to you, Brian and Bob:
In one respect, today marks the culmination of many years of prayer, discernment and formation. For years, indeed, as the First Reading today describes so beautifully, “before you were formed in the womb,” God has called you to this moment. Perhaps, stated even more completely, God has called you from the beginning of time to share in the eternal priesthood. Christ and His grace (the grace of Holy Orders) will allow you to exercise His priesthood in a manner that heals the ills of today. Just as Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we who share His priesthood are to be all things to all people.
It is a daunting task, some would even say an audacious undertaking, but when a priest lives his life in faithful communion with Christ, he is a blessing and an inspiration to his people and to the world around him. In such faithful communion with Christ, the priest himself comes to know the joy that Christ promised, and the fulfillment of a truly, authentic human life, because a truly human life is one firmly rooted in God and given freely and lovingly in service to others.
Every human life, because it is rooted in God, is a treasure, and thus St. Paul says to the Corinthians in our second reading today: “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” So, in the words of St. John Vianney, “do nothing that you cannot offer to God.”
None of us sitting here with you today, can tell you in specific detail what the years ahead will entail, but we can certainly paint in broad strokes what you can anticipate, and the rite of ordination which we are about to celebrate will give its own instruction of the responsibilities which you are about to embrace.
Perhaps the best advice I can give is that you look always to Christ. He has called you to follow Him. If you do that, you will always be on the right path in the journey that begins today, for indeed, the life of a priest is one of a journey, a pilgrimage. At this moment, you leave behind father and mother, family and home. Christ is and will be your One constant Companion, and His Church is now your new home. Your daily circuit as a priest will encompass the entire universe, as you move from the altar to the tabernacle; from the pulpit to the baptistery to the confessional, no matter if in the smallest mission or largest parish, this faithful daily path will continue to wrap all of creation in the saving mystery of Christ.
The dwelling place of the priest is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This may sound like a throw-away, pious platitude. But to the priest who truly understands this reality, that priest is a tremendous source of grace, love, mercy and blessing to his people. To live in the heart of Christ is to know one’s self as infinitely and eternally loved. Living in the heart of Christ, the priest learns how to pour out his life as a grateful return to the God who created him. From the cross, that heart of Christ was pierced, and poured forth the blood of cleansing, mercy and salvation. The priesthood flows from this Sacred Heart of Christ. The priest celebrates the Eucharist that is the eternally flowing font of salvation for and from the Church.
The Gospel of Luke and the Responsorial Psalm you selected for today’s readings speak to us of Christ’s teaching to take up this blessing cup, this cup of salvation in his memory. This blood of Christ, which is His new and eternal covenant with us, is the source of healing and mercy for the world. A priest lives in the Heart of Christ in order to be the Heart of Christ in the world.
As a priest, you will be a Father of a family. As a Father, you are to pray and strive always for the UNITY of God’s family.
As a priest, you will be a brother to me as your bishop, to other priests, and especially to the marginalized; the poor, the incarcerated, the sick, those disheartened by the difficulties of life. In the Gospel today, Jesus commends his disciples for standing by him in his time of trials. Such compassion expressed for the distressed and disheartened of the world today is the hallmark of priests. Jesus also tells the disciples that He confers upon them a kingdom, the same kingdom he received from the Father. This is the same kingdom every priest is to share and expand in this world. We do this by our association with Jesus and our service to the least among us.
Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them is the one who serves the rest. Bob and Brian, always search out those who are most in need of Christ. Humble yourselves as St. Paul instructs us in the second reading today: “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.”
Just as you were called from your mother’s womb, Christ entered the world in similar fashion. Jesus in the Incarnation left the sanctuary of Heaven to enter the world to be among God’s People – to reveal the Father’s love. Likewise, priests today are to be found not only in the sanctuary – but in the world, among God’s people – revealing the love of God. The challenge here is to remain in Christ, rooted in His Gospel, so that while being in the world as emissaries of God’s Kingdom, the priest does not become of the world himself.
With your eyes fixed on Christ, learn from Christ, that you may teach in His name. Recognizing Christ as the Master Teacher, every priest is to teach in His name. As the Prophet Jeremiah, God has placed His Word in your mouths and upon your lips. Brian and Bob, I encourage each of you to take this role of teacher very seriously. There is much confusion in our world today about God, about the Church, about the human person. With the Truth of Christ, and the Truth that is Christ The Church has much to offer our people.
The obvious and most privileged place of teaching is the homily. Be faithful to prayerful and studious preparation for this task. But recognize that your role of teacher goes well beyond the pulpit. I encourage you as priests to be generous in spending time with our youth. Teach them how to pray. Teach them how to serve Mass. Take time to teach them in our Catholic schools and in our religious education programs. Spend time with our youth in our Y-Disciple and youth ministry programs. Teach them in simple conversation. Teach them and all others by the way you live your life, by means of simplicity, humility and chastity.
Any homily on priesthood would be incomplete without an instruction to the newly ordained to be men of prayer. One of the promises a priest makes is to pray for the Church. Prayer is ultimately about hope and trust in God. Prayer is a simple admission that we are not God, and God IS. Prayer does not try to influence God, as much as it is a conversation that opens one to the influence of God. I can assure each of you, Brian and Bob, that rarely does a day pass that someone does not ask a priest to pray for them. I would wager that the most often repeated request of our own Holy Father, Pope Francis has been: “Please, pray for me.”
Prayer for the priest has essentially two lungs: The daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of Hours. The greatest prayer of the priest is the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Be faithful to this daily rhythm of your priestly lives. The Divine Office can become routine, and I caution you to not allow this practice to simply become a mere obligation. The Liturgy of Hours is a beautiful habit of being in and with and for the Church. In many ways, it is like the mundane house chores, like washing dishes, doing laundry, making beds, cleaning and cooking, that when done with love, make a house a home. These simple, hidden prayers of the priest are what make the world the Kingdom of God. Brian and Bob, be men of prayer.
In short, as Jesus, lead us; lead the People of God to God.
Finally, as you now take up your dwelling in the Heart of Christ and make the Church your home, a word of encouragement that you take Mary as your Mother. No one in this world knew Christ more intimately, and no one has ever loved Christ more faithfully. Mary gave birth to Christ, and was at the foot of the cross when Christ gave birth to the Church. Mary will help you know the heart of Christ and will help you always grow in love for the Church, and none of us could ask more for you or of you as a priest.
Allow me to close with the words of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta: Bob and Brian, “be only and all for Jesus, through Mary.”