Most Rev. William Crean
Bishop of Cloyne
The recent tragic deaths of the young people with the collapse of the balcony, in Berkeley CA, led to a natural outpouring of sympathy for their families as they mourned the loss of their son or daughter in the Springtime of their lives – hope and aspiration gave way to the sense of huge loss and despair that such a tragedy brings to life. We remember them in our prayer as we also remember so many whose lives and dreams are being shattered by war and terror.
I recall this tragic event and its aftermath for the presence of so many priests who at various moments were available and willing to minister to these families at a time of desolation for them and sought to bring some consolation by being with them in their hour of need.
Given the very negative media portrayal of the Priesthood because of the abuse scandals – it is heartening to read a journalist acknowledge that positive face of priesthood. (Cathy Sheridan/ Irish Times)
My friends, to-day, Eamon, your relative and friend, is to be ordained to the order of Priests. As we consider Eamon’s ordination to the Priesthood and place it in its wider context of our journey of faith it is important to remember that God has made his entire people a royal priesthood in Christ. But our High Priest, Jesus Christ, also chose some of his followers to carry our publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in his name on behalf of mankind. He was sent by the Father, and he in turn sent the apostles into the world; through them and their successors, the bishops, he continues his work as Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Priests are co-workers of the order of bishops. They are joined to the bishops in the priestly office and are called to serve God’s people.
Our brother Eamon has seriously considered this step and is now to be ordained to priesthood in the presbyteral order. He is to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd in his ministry which is to make his own body, the Church, grow into the people of God, a holy temple.
That call to service in the likeness of the Lord Jesus is well reflected in the Scripture reading Eamon has invited us to reflect on to-day – choosing the text from Isaiah he has chosen the very words Jesus quoted in the synagogue to explain to his hearers the nature of his own mission and ministry; “The Lord has anointed me… he has sent me to bring good news to the poor… and to those who mourn the oil of gladness”.
In choosing the verses from St. Paul to the Corinthians you echo the need for courage in the exercise of the priestly ministry;
“We will have none of the reticence of those who are ashamed, no deceit- fullness or watering down the word of God”.
Yet it calls for humility also; “For it is not ourselves we are preaching but Christ Jesus as the Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”. Having that humility of heart keeps us grounded. “We are only earthenware jars that hold their treasures to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us”.
And so the Gospel reading from St. Luke is so apt for to-day – the celebration of the Eucharist as the heart and core of your ministry as a priest. As you Eamon fulfil the Lord’s commands to “Do this in memory of me”, you will do so as one who serves.
My son, Eamon, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energy to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with all mankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach.
You will have no illusions from your years spent in formation how challenging this task will be. However, you are well acquainted with the world of commerce and technology so you will bring those skills and insights to your ministry.
Yet let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church.
In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it with Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ.
For it is by the witness of our lives that the ministry of the priest in Ireland will recover the trust and faith of the people disillusioned and dismayed by the sins of the few.
Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God. Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own. To be available and accepting of those who come for refreshment and renewal of spirit should be the heart of your ministry to people.
The Papal ministry of Francis is truly an inspiration to us all – his genuine joy in the Good News that is Christ Jesus is a model for all who seek to walk the Christian Way. It is precisely that sense of Joy that lifts the human heart.
It was this almost innate sense of joy and hope that sustained our fore bearers through the most difficult days of our history. This generation faces new challenges – there is enormous pressure on a new generation to embrace an essentially agnostic world view – whereby so much spiritual heritage is jettisoned without thought or reflection for what can be lost – the Christian spiritual vision can at once be an anchor, a lighthouse, a sextant, all instruments of safe navigation on the voyage of life. A G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) can pinpoint our physical location with frightening precision – yet it is useless in monitoring or nurturing the inner self. We need wisdom in choosing what we value in life.
This is the context for your priestly ministry but you will not labour alone because you will always be conscious of sharing in the work of Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church, and united with the bishop and subject to him, seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not be served but to serve, and to seek and rescue those who were lost. We rejoice in your faith and generosity of spirit as you willingly embrace this new responsibility in life.
Let me conclude with these words from St. Paul to the Ephesians, “Glory to Him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever, Amen”.