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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 17, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the priestly ordination of Deacons Rick Hobbs, Juan Guido and Robert Cigainero at Christ the King Church in Little Rock Saturday, May 17, 2014.
Juan, Robert and Rick, in the Gospel you chose for your ordination, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd and he says that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In a few minutes I will have the great honor of ordaining you to take your place in the care of Jesus' flock, to whose call you have responded with love and courage. And you already know from the Gospel you just heard that to be good shepherds, you must be willing to face adversity and even die for the sheep, like him whose alter ego — Alter Christus — we have become.
This imagery works when speaking about our work of guiding the flock, but it does not work when we focus on the behavior of the sheep. I have already said this at other ordinations, but I want to emphasize it again because it is very important: real sheep, the four-legged kind, are not too bright and you need to prod them and goad them to keep them going the right direction. But the people you will serve as priests are not stupid sheep — God has blessed them with many gifts of intellect, many talents that you and I do not have.
And he has also blessed them with sincere commitment to Jesus and his Church. They are our “co-workers in the vineyard.” So as you begin your priestly ministry, I urge you to revere the people you serve … indeed, you will serve them best by empowering people to contribute their gifts, placing yourself at their service — not the other way around. The Church in Arkansas needs priests who lead by example, who revere the spiritual and ministerial gifts of those Jesus sends us to serve.
An important part of your work will be the effort to foster understanding, love and respect among all those whom Jesus entrusts to your care
As Pope Francis says so eloquently in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, our Church should be characterized by collegiality, not coercion; by intelligent discourse, not impersonal edicts imposed from on high; and above all by giving joyful witness to the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ — our share in his victory over the power of sin and death.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, your ministry will require you to lead but not compel; to inspire and not shame; to encourage the sheep from within the messy flock entrusted to your care, with all their human struggles, like whom — Pope Francis says — you should smell, instead of rebuking them from the cold isolation of a superior, judgmental attitude. Indeed, that rare one percent of the time, when rebuking is needed, might never arise, if they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them and revere them and share their struggles. This becomes easier the more we recognize that we too have special needs, that we too are in some ways poor and infirm — "but for the grace of God, there go I!"
Here in Arkansas, our love manifests itself also in the welcome we give to the strangers among us, especially recent immigrants — whose difficult circumstances you know very well. An important part of your work will be the effort to foster understanding, love and respect among all those whom Jesus entrusts to your care.
Our diocese is a living mosaic of very diverse people — sort of like a stained glass window whose true beauty shines fully only when it is illuminated by the light of mutual love — when the variety of our cultures and races are allowed to shine forth brilliantly. The three parishes in which you will begin your priestly ministry are all excellent examples of this.
Pope Francis emphasizes that the missionary transformation of the Church begins with a personal encounter with the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, which you have experienced and which has produced in you an irrepressible passion to share this gift with others — with special concern for the weakest and most broken among us. And that is what we now ordain you and send you forth to do!
To learn more about this ordination Mass, visit Arkansas Catholic.