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Faithfulness to Serve the Church & Pastor the People Print E-mail

June 13, 2012 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 51, No. 11  |  BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY

Bishop Murphy gave this homily Saturday, June 9 when he ordained three deacons to the priesthood for service to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Dear brothers and sisters gathered here this morning in St Agnes Cathedral and all of you watching via Telecare, may this day fill your hearts with God’s blessings and may this blessed moment in the life of our Church bring us all more deeply into the joy that comes from knowing Christ Jesus, the high priest of our salvation. When Jesus stood up in the synagogue of Nazareth He read these very words of Isaiah we have just heard. He, the anointed one of the Father, came into the world to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty and release, and to announce the favor of the Lord. Today you see before you three men, your sons and friends, who stand ready to receive the gift of priestly ordination which will configure them to the One who came that we might have life, a life we all share through baptism, a life that makes us all a holy people, a royal priesthood, true sharers in the life of Christ. Together as His Body all of us are true witnesses of the only who saves, Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Lord, our Redeemer.

For this Body to grow and fulfill its mission, it must live in union with its Head, be faithful to His message, and be nourished by His Body and Blood. As His Body we are transformed day by day to belong ever more deeply to Him through the priestly ministry of those whom Jesus himself deputed to do this in memory of me. He willed that this Church be led, pastured, sanctified and governed by men called by God to be ordained to the priesthood to be configured to Christ, the eternal high priest, in order to build up His Body the Church. They will have the awesome task to fulfill the office of presbyter in imitation of Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd. Indeed this day they “will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people and to celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.”

And now to you my dear sons, with great affection and abiding joy, I greet you soon to be one with me and all my brother priests of this diocese. Raised to the Order of the Priesthood, you will be sent out to shepherd the people of God in our beloved diocese and, by the grace of this office, feed and pastor, pray for and love, teach and lead Christ’s flock whom you are called to love with a shepherd’s heart.

“Do you love me?” asked Christ of his first apostle Peter. As the Risen Lord posed that question to him, Peter could hearken back to the day Jesus announced to him and the others, “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for my sheep.”  Three times that day Jesus told them that He, the Good Shepherd, lays down his life for his sheep. Three times now when Peter professes his love, did he tell Peter feed my sheep! Today he says those same words to you!

Dear sons, like Peter you stand before the Lord with your own history. I don’t mean the facts of your life. I mean the true history of your journey of life, the spiritual journey that began at baptism and that grew to become a call from God in which you heard the voice of Jesus saying Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. That journey of life and love does not end today. But it takes on a new meaning through an ontological change in your very being! Today you accept freely and fully to “lay down your life” in imitation of the Good Shepherd who called you and loved you with that overflowing love that brought you to this day. That love you must nurture in your hearts through prayer and meditation, through personal sacrifice and generous giving of yourself completely and without reservation to Him who now shares with you His mission from the Father: to be teacher and sanctifier, shepherd and pastor of the people God has made His own.

From now on your journey is that of one who shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. You act in His name. You preach in His name. You pray in His name. You must then belong ever more deeply to Him so that you can become ever more deeply one with your people and one with me as you share in our common priestly mission: to feed and to teach, to shepherd and to pastor, to love with a heart that loves usque ad finem, even to the end.

Son though he was, He learned obedience from what He suffered. When we discussed the readings you men chose for this day, you spoke of how much you want to be one with the people you serve and how much you recognize your own limitations but are committed to giving your all in love to the people in the parishes where you will serve. That holy commitment finds its model in the Lord as described in the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. Son though He was, He became one with us to share in our weakness that we might be saved by One like us in all things but sin. We are taken from among men and made their representatives before God. But we are always one with all of humanity in our own individual frailty and our need to rely on the strength that comes from above. This means that we are able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring because we ourselves are enveloped by weakness. Because of this we must exercise this priesthood we share with humility and with a constant awareness that it is only because God has called us and gives us His strength that we can offer ourselves to our people with tranquility and with confidence that the One who calls is the One who gives the grace. That is how we remain faithful, loving shepherds. Ours is to show this faithfulness in our every word and deed. Ours is to show this faithfulness by our constant prayer and deeper and deeper union with the Good Shepherd. Ours is to live this faithfulness so that our people may be fed with the Word that is truth and the sacrament that gives life. Ours is a faithfulness of unity with the Vicar of Christ, our Holy Father, and with the bishop who is the Vicar of Christ of this local Church. Ours is finally a faithfulness that makes it possible for us to say with the Good Shepherd, “I know mine and they know me. For them I lay down my life.

When the Holy Father ordained priests on Good Shepherd Sunday, he said, “Dear ordinands, this is where the Good Shepherd wishes to lead us! It is here that the priest is called to lead the faithful entrusted to his care: to true life, to life in abundance.” And may you today and every day of your priestly life say and live what Peter said and lived to his own death: Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You. And you will hear the Good Shepherd whisper in your ear as he embraces you with his love: FEED MY SHEEP!


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