Bishop Murphy’s homily at the ordination of Bishops Nelson Perez and Robert Brennan, July 25, 2012 at St. Agnes Cathedral.
Brothers and sisters gathered here and those participating thanks to Telecare:
With deep gratitude have we received the notification that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has designated these two priests to serve in our Diocese of Rockville Centre as assistant bishops to me your pastor. Our gratitude extends as well to the Holy Father’s representative, Archbishop Viganò, whose presence honors us all and whose words open up the deep meaning of the mystery of God’s plan for the Church we all treasure. What a grace is ours, priests and bishops called to serve this Church in imitation of Christ, the High Priest and true Head of the Church. My two new brothers and I are especially appreciative that the Holy Father has commended us to the special protection of St. Agnes, our celestial patron.
We know that the unity of the Church is first and foremost the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the inner gift of divine love from which the Church draws her strength and by which she lives her life faithful to the commandments of God and the teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The water and blood that flowed from His side on the cross calls the Church into being. The apostles gathered in the Upper Room around Mary received the Spirit through the resurrected Christ to become His Church, His Body, His community of communion till the end of time.
That inner life of the Spirit is guaranteed and carried on visibly through the two great gifts of the Lord at the Last Supper, the greatest gift, the Eucharist, His Body and Blood and the mandate to the first apostles and their successors to celebrate that Eucharist and lead His disciples by lives of constant fidelity to Christ and His teaching. What we do today is the visible expression of God’s love poured forth into the Church for our life and for the life of the world.
Christ Himself is in our midst every time we proclaim His death and resurrection; every time we do what He has commanded us to do in memory of Him: This is My Body for you; My Blood poured out for you. Thus do we live our sublime vocation to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Thus do we do what He did on the night before He died!
We this day continue that which makes us Church in accordance with God’s plan. See in these two priests the successors of those first apostles. Accept them and welcome them as the very representatives of Christ, chosen by Him and sent to us. Recognize that what Jesus said to the first apostles, He says today to them: Whoever listens to you listens to Me and whoever rejects you rejects Me and whoever rejects you rejects Me and the One who sent Me.
And to you, my dear brothers, reflect with me on the Holy Order to which you have been called today by Christ Jesus Himself. I can think of no Gospel passage that is more pregnant with meaning and instruction for us bishops than the one we have just heard proclaimed. From the day Peter professed to the Lord: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, he and the other apostles have been walking with Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem. Now as they approach the place of His destiny, the mother of James and John asks the question that the Lord uses to teach these disciples the meaning of their own destiny. The real meaning of their discipleship is to be lived not in worldly honor and human glory. It is to be lived in imitation of Him who is about to die for us all. The contrast could not be sharper. The very words Jesus uses to describe this world’s exercise of power are strong and direct. And the alternative which Jesus offers is the very contradiction of that kind of leadership. In accepting this call you accept to drink from His chalice: My chalice you will indeed drink. But that means you embrace not the glory of this world but a humble life of service: whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. The One who speaks these words is the same One who, in an upper room in Jerusalem, will wash their feet, saying, As I have washed your feet, you are to wash one another’s feet. The One who speaks these words is calling you to follow Him to the cross, to live in its shadow, to embrace its meaning and to imitate His love by the offering of your lives for His Church and for the world.
No one knew this better than Paul. So conscious of his own frailties, his own weaknesses, his own “earthenness,” something we too know all too well of ourselves. Such are our own weaknesses that, if all we had to offer were ourselves, we would best not even try. But Paul teaches us: our frailties are what God wants, our humanness is exactly what is needed so that He can show the power of His love, He can bring about His plan that our faith, rooted in Him and centered on Christ, might be such that even our poverty cannot hide His richness, even our weakness is a vehicle for divine strength and divine life.
Paul describes us well: how often are we “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down?” But, at the same time, he says we are “not constrained, not driven to despair, not abandoned and not destroyed!” How is that? Why is that? It is because we not only know ABOUT Christ. We know HIM; and in knowing Him we seek to imitate Him. By imitating Him we enter more deeply into His life and love because we let Him enter into us and transform us into His instruments, living now not for ourselves but so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh.
What Paul suggests to us is that we are given a kind of ontological oneness with Christ. We participate in Him in a way that is brought about by the gift of the Holy Order which soon will be yours. But it is given to you by the Lord so that you can be sent, sent to offer Him to the people God has made His own. Be of good courage! Christ goes with you. And you can and will fulfill your mission to the extent that you let Him lead you, guide you, inspire you. Whether in good times or difficult ones, whether in joy or in sorrow, so long as you love Him, you will love your people; and they will love you because they see Him in you and they receive Him from you.
How wondrous is this call you have received. How awesome to spend your life serving His people. How blessed we are because He who loved us has called us to be His servants and thus servants of His people. While you and I are principally called to serve the good people of this diocese, in union with and in support of the Holy Father, we also are one with him in solicitude for the Church throughout the world and for all of humankind.
For ultimately it is for them we are ordained, for them we accept the call, for them we offer our lives. Trust me, it is worth it. Trust me you will know such happiness, such joy even in the most difficult of moments because you let Him shape you. You are in Him and you bring Him to His own.
And to you, God’s people, you The Body of Christ, you the Holy Church of God, let Paul’s words be mine to you today:
Everything is indeed for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God! Amen!