Dominican Ordinations

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Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin  Archbishop of Dublin

Saint Saviour’s Church Dominick Street, 5th July 2014

“We gather as a community of family and friends of these two Deacons, Colm Mannion and Luuk Jensen who are to be ordained priests in the Dominican Order through the prayer of the Church and the laying on of hands.  We rejoice with the Dominican community here in Dominick Street and in the entire province and with all those who have been responsible for the spiritual and academic formation of these two future priests.

          Priesthood is not a prize to be attained.  It is a calling to be conformed to Jesus Christ, the High Priest.  The first reading reminded us that our vocation and destiny are formed even in the womb before we are born.  The Lord calls us into life and he watches over us all our days.  The Lord calls us to our ministry and watches over us, as the first reading noted, “putting his words into our mouth”.

          Priesthood is not a prize to be attained.  It is not a job to get down.  It is not a way of life which we carve out for ourselves.  We are called, as priests, to recognise the word of God which God has placed in our mouths.  We are called to proclaim that word and not our own wisdom; and we are called to live a life which is fully coherent with the word that we proclaim.

The Gospel reading reminds us of the holy things which are consigned to the priest in his ministry.  The priest is the minister of holy things.  He is the minister, but not the owner or the manager.  It is the mission of the priest to celebrate the Eucharist and to bring the presence of Jesus among us in the Eucharist. But that presence is a presence of the presence of the Sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus eats this Passover meal before he goes out to suffer for us.  The priest brings the body and blood of Jesus to us, but it is the body which is given up for us and a covenant which is sealed by the pouring out of the blood of Jesus.

Priesthood is not a prize to be attained, but a calling to empty ourselves.  Priesthood is not a claim to special privilege or to external dignity.  The Gospel stresses the fundamental link between leadership in the Church and the sacrifice of the Eucharist. 

The priesthood therefore calls us to live a life of service and simplicity.  Priesthood is a ministry of service like that of Jesus.  Priesthood involves identifying ourselves with the Jesus who enters into his kingdom through drinking the chalice of suffering.   The priest is called to imitate the mystery which he celebrates and to draw people to Jesus through the integrity of his life.  The Church is not ours to construct; it is ours to receive from the Spirit.  The one called to service in the Church never serves in his own name and never serves his own ideas.   

Colm and Luuk: you will have noticed how when the question was put by me at the opening of this liturgy about your worthiness, that the response of the liturgical text refers in the first place not about the opinion of a formation team, but uses the phrase: “after inquiry among Christ’s people”. 

What does “inquiry among Christ’s people” mean?  It is not that we send out a questionnaire or carried out a public opinion survey.  It is about the sense of faith of God’s people.  It is the sense of faith of God’s people against which your worthiness is measured and your worthiness in your future ministry will be determined not by your own self-opinion, but by how you recognise and nourish the faith that is present in God’s people.  The priest is called to nourish the faith of God’s people, but the faith of God’s people also nourishes the priest.  Priesthood is not a caste.  The priest may never look down on or feel superior to God’s people.  To do so would be to pretend oneself to be God himself.

We need renewal in the Church today. We need a new dynamic of evangelization.  Evangelization is about transmitting faith in Jesus Christ.  To transmit faith in Jesus we must have a strong relationship with Jesus.  We must identify our lives with him and his self-giving.  Pope Francis stresses that a true missionary never ceases to be a disciple.  And he reminds us that if we loose that sense and the commitment which springs from our relationship with and discipleship of Jesus we “become unsure of what it is that we are transmitting”.

There is a danger in today’s world that the priest can loose direction and that despite being busy doing “priestly things” he actually becomes something else. The priest is not a social worker, or the leader of a social movement or a social commentator or a social reformer.   The priest is the one who knows Jesus Christ and who attracts people not because of things that he does but because his faith in Jesus gives his life an integrity which allows him to be a true Father to those encounters.

How many of us have turned in difficult moments to a good priest?  How many of us have gotten an answer to complex personal problems, not because the priest had special technical skills in counselling, but because we saw in him Gospel wisdom inspired by integrity in life.  

It is a similar encounter with Gospel wisdom which will attract young people to the priesthood.  We need more priests, but we will attract more priests in the measure in which all of us priests rediscover our own priesthood and rebuild our relationship with Jesus Christ and live that relationship with renewed vigour, but always in a spirit of humility and service. 

Pope Francis stresses the challenge for the Church to go out and bring the message of Jesus to the world around us, especially to those who live on the peripheries of our societies and those on the frontiers of human experience.  The priest who goes out must be able to bring Jesus with him.  The priest cannot go our empty.  There is also a sense in which it is in going out that the priest discovers who he really is.  It is in that encounter of conversation with others that we realise the depth or the emptiness of our priestly commitment and of our knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.   Refusing that encounter can be a sign that we prefer protected comfort-zones of our own, that we are afraid and timid to go out and we try to keep the message of Jesus for ourselves only then to find that we have lost what we are really called to transmit.

Being a priest today is not easy.  But being a good priest is challenging and fulfilling.   In bringing the mercy and love of God to those around us, we learn what mercy is and we come to know that mercy involves sharing and self-giving and even doubting and questioning rather the handing over self-prepared, ready-made packages human certainties which do not endure.

Colm and Luuk: we entrust your ministry in the years to come to Mary, Mother of Jesus, but also the true model of discipleship of her son.  May she protect you; may she help you ponder the words of her son and may she keep faithful in your ministry. ENDS