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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 27, 2023
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Saturday, May 27, 2023. It is based on the following readings: Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 116; 1 Timothy 4:12-16; and John 20;19-23.
Every seminarian preparing for ordination spends some time reflecting on the Scripture passages that most reflect the mission to which the Lord is calling him. In fact, the Scriptures chosen for an ordination function sort of as a mission statement for the new priest regarding the vocation to which God has called him and for which he is consecrating his life, and the readings you just heard do just that.
The first reading comes from Isaiah and is the same passage that we use in the Chrism Mass every year when we renew our priestly commitment. It is also the text that Jesus himself chose as he began his public ministry that day at the synagogue in Nazareth 2,000 years ago, regarding which he said: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Nathan and John Paul, using this passage, we are saying that you should seek to be so intimately united to Jesus that his mission becomes your mission, with special concern for those who need us the most: 1.) “bringing glad tidings to the lowly” — your preferential concern for the poor; 2.) “healing the brokenhearted” — the pastoral counseling that you will offer; 3.) “proclaiming liberty to captives and release to prisoners,” who are among the most despised and forgotten people in our society; 4.) “announcing a year of favor from the Lord” — courageous advocacy for peace and justice and mercy and hope in the public square, human rights; 5.) “comforting all who mourn” — proclaiming the kerygma through all your words and actions, Jesus’ victory over the power of sin and death.
You become another Christ, “alter Christus,” through ordination, so you are to offer yourself to God as well, in every Mass you celebrate, united to Jesus, whose priest you will be.
Through ordination Jesus equips you to do all this and much more, except that it will not be you doing it. It will be Jesus doing everything through you. One of the ways that you will do this will be through the sacrament of reconciliation, right in line with what we see in the Gospel passage chosen for today’s ceremony, which will also be the Gospel for your Masses of thanksgiving this Pentecost weekend.
Jesus’ words to his apostles are spoken to you as well: “Peace be with you” — even if you are a little nervous today. “As the Father has sent me” — meaning Jesus — “so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
And of course, in the words of your second reading from the First Letter to Timothy, to be credible — despite your youth — you need to “set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” That’s a tall order, but with God’s grace you can do it.
John Paul and Nathan, two weeks from now we will be inaugurating our diocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy at St. Edward Parish on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of the Lord. And isn’t it true that every element of our faith comes together in the Eucharist?
The mission statement in our reading from Isaiah which Jesus makes his own, and the kerygma of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself, offered to the Father on Calvary 2,000 years ago and from his altars throughout the world in every Mass. But not just the sacrifice of Jesus. You become another Christ — an “alter Christus” — through ordination, so you are to offer yourself to God as well, in every Mass you celebrate, united to Jesus, whose priest you will be.