Priesthood Ordination Homily
June 26, 2021
Cathedral of St. James – Seattle
Jeremiah 1: 4 – 9; 2 Corinthians 4: 1-2, 5-7; John 15: 9-17

Rev. Kyle Poje, Rev. Michael Barbarossa, Rev. Val Park

Church as a Loving Mother; Priests as Merciful Fathers

Please allow me to begin by welcoming all of you to this celebration.

Minsoo and Inja Park, Larry and Chris Barbarossa, Brian and Vanessa Poje Thank you for the gift of your sons and the love and formation they first received from you and in your family. We are grateful!

Welcome Fr. Brendan Hurley, sj, Representing the North American College
And Rev. Keolker Representing Mt. Angel Seminary.
Brother Bishops, Priests, Guests

Most especially, we welcome to this celebration Kyle, Val, and Michael.

Our first reading today reminds us that each of us have always been in the heart and mind of God. Before we are even formed in the womb, God knows and loves each person, and indeed this love of God is our source of being. Every wise person knows to tend to this foundational relationship with God. The prophet Jeremiah uses a powerful image of the womb, another source of life for each human person. Where would any of us be without a mother?

Pope Francis often speaks of the Church as a loving mother. In our world today, as we are coming out of a global pandemic, many things need our attention, and the human family has a unique opportunity to re-prioritize our life. Similarly, we as members of the Church have this moment of grace to re-envision the Church we are called to be today. The Church exists in the world, precisely to continue to work of Christ and further advance the Kingdom of God.

Michael, Kyle, and Val, as you become priests this day, in a sense, fresh from the womb of God, the Sacred Heart of Christ, help us re-envision this Church as a loving mother. As priests, be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty in the messiness of the lived reality of God’s people.

It is important to know and believe, that the Church is not a place for the perfect. We are a people of God, redeemed sinners, on our way to holiness and salvation. As priests, we are called to teach and instruct in the ways of faith. As teachers we form consciences, not replace them. There is a delicate balance between teaching and listening to the people of God to learn from their experience of faith as sons and daughters of God.

The process of integrating the faith into the entirety of one’s life means beginning wherever that person happens to be in their journey of faith. Encourage God’s people to a fullness of faith, admonish when necessary, and love always. Balancing these various realities is seldom easy, but that is the true measure of a loving mother and a merciful father.
Priests are ministers, stewards of God’s grace. Priests administer the sacraments and the graces they confer, but I encourage you to also be attentive to the grace that is already present in the lives of God’s people. Strive to help them recognize and cooperate with the Lord who is ever present in each persons’ life.

St. Paul recognizes in today’s second reading that it is only through God’s mercy that he received his ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:1) As priests, we are to be merciful fathers. As those who have received mercy, we convey the same love and compassion to God’s people. This is essentially Jesus’ message in the Gospel we just heard. “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Remain in my love.” Brothers, draw your strength from this love of Christ and never forget his love holds true for every person you serve! Always remember the fullest expression of his love displayed on the cross.
I pray for you brothers, that you will rise to the challenges of this present moment and be capable of discerning how to apply the lessons of your experience of God’s love and compassion to the challenges of our world today. Our world needs healing, physical and spiritual healing. These two go hand-in-hand because they are interwoven realities of every human person, and thus at the heart of the human family.

Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, came into the world to walk humbly with us as a Gentle Physician to heal the wounds of humanity and restore our communion with God, each other, and all of creation. Jesus preached the Good News to all, forgave individual sins, healed personal maladies, and ultimately applied the balm of God’s mercy and Redemption to the entire human family. Our Church and world need priests today who can build community and restore the unity of the human family. Jesus Christ is the source of this unity.

Every priest participates in the ministry of Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and learn from him. The mission of the Church is ultimately found in the ministry of priesthood. The mission is summarized in proclaiming Christ to the world, bringing others into the divine life of God, and exercising charity, particularly towards the poor. This mission is reflected in both the common and ordained priesthood, as each are called and sent to proclaim the Word of God, sanctify others through celebration and reception of the sacraments, and provide for the needs of all through good governance.

Priests have a duty as shepherds to lead, but this must be a leadership rooted in service, not lording it over others. Brothers, be alert to the traps of clericalism which seeks honor and privilege, and ultimately ends up separating us from God’s people, and fractures the Body of Christ. Always place yourself at the service of others.

As Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent the apostles forth to carry on his mission and to establish the fledgling Church, so now Jesus sends you, some 2,000 years later, as newly ordained priests to do the same. Proclaim Good News and be credible, authentic witnesses to Christ, knowing that he is with you always.

Finally, may you always know the loving care of Mary our Mother. May she instruct you how to be priests in the likeness of her Son. May she, who carried Christ in her womb and bore the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection in her heart intercede for you, that you may carry Christ to the others, and lead many others to him.