Living the Truth in Love
Homily - Priesthood Ordination of
Deacon Martin Dunne, III
Deacon Wisman Simeon
Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola
May 6, 2017
We Don’t Rule Over Your Faith, We Serve Your Joy
All of us are here to celebrate a most happy occasion for the Church in the Diocese of Palm Beach - the ordination of two priests. Deacon Martin Dunne and Deacon Wisman Simeon have prepared for many years for this day and come forward to joyfully answer yes to the Lord's call to them to serve His people, the Church, in His very Person. Their families, who are present with us, celebrate in a special way and we are very grateful to them for the sacrifices they have made in giving us their sons and in assisting in their preparation for priesthood. The Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul, at which these men just completed their studies, also celebrates the fruits of its special ministry and we are grateful to Monsignor David Toups, it's Rector, as well as to all of its fine faculty and staff for preparing Martin and Wisman to be priests. It is a great joy for me to be with all of you and to ordain you my brothers, Martin and Wisman, to the priesthood. With our fine presbyterate in the Diocese of Palm Beach, I look forward to collaborating with you in the ministry of Christ as His priests.
Martin and Wisman, I would like to share with you the words of the Pope which he used as the motto on the invitation to his first Mass after his ordination to the priesthood. It stated, "We don't rule over your faith, we serve your joy." When asked in an interview, why did he choose such a motto, he answered, "As part of a contemporary understanding of the priesthood, not only were we conscious that clericalism is wrong and the priest is always a servant, but we also made great inward efforts not to put ourselves up on a high pedestal. I would not even have dared to introduce myself as 'the reverend'. To be aware that we are not lords, but rather servants, was for me something not only reassuring, but also personally important as the basis on which I could receive ordination at all. So the statement on the invitation expressed a central motive for me."
I am sure that all of us on hearing these very moving words of the Holy Father agree that they are a wonderful reflection for these two deacons who are to be ordained priests today. In fact, they are a good reflection for all of us no matter what our vocation may be. They certainly capture the spirit of the way the Pope lives out his ministry as Shepherd of the Universal Church. However, they are not the words of Pope Francis as fitting as they would be for him. They are the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which are found in his final series of reflections, Last Testament, recently published at the end of last year. Those who know Pope Benedict also know how true these words were for him as he carried out his ministry as Shepherd of the Universal Church. Although the popular media sometimes presents a different image, Pope Benedict, who has the highest regard and admiration for Pope Francis, lived and carried out his ministry from his earliest days in the same fashion as Pope Francis. It was his willingness not to rule over the faith of others but to serve their joy which led to the incredible decision for him to resign as Pope in freedom and joy.
In this century we have been blessed with the extraordinary ministries of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and our present beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis. My brothers, Martin and Wisman, as you are ordained today it is well for you to follow the example of the supreme shepherds given to you. They remind us of how the Lord expects His priests to shepherd - not in terms of seeking our own program or agenda, not in terms of planning our future advancement as if we were in a business, and especially not in terms of being set aside from others. You need to continue to follow the example of these great men in terms of being servants as was the Lord. It is also very important for you, while inspired by the example of these popes, to be your own person and use the gifts and qualities which God has given to you. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emphasized this in comparing his personality with that of Pope Francis. While you must be obedient to what the Church asks of you, you must be your own person. You don't rule over the faith of others - you live yours completely and that is what will serve the joy of others as well as your own.
In his homily to the priests of Rome for the Chrism Mass just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis spoke very personally in regard to how a priest must be a joyful embodiment of the Good News of Jesus Christ with his entire person. It is remarkable, if not providential, how his words corresponded to the motto which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used as the motto on the invitation to his first Mass, "We don't rule over your faith, we serve your joy." Pope Francis emphasized how "It is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared." He expressed that the priest does this, "When by taking one small step, we make God's mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time." He truly exhorted the priest that evangelization takes place by living the faith - the way to touch the hearts of people is to touch them with that same word with which the Lord has touched the priest's heart in prayer.
Pope Francis emphasized that "Announcing a great joy… can only be done in a respectful, humble and even humbling way. Concrete, tender and humble: in this way our evangelization will be joyful." My brothers, as you are ordained priests this morning, these words of Pope Francis are very significant for you. Concrete, tender and humble capture a hallmark of what priestly life is all about. They do so because they are the way of the Lord Himself. The priest is the image of Christ for the people he serves not upon a high pedestal but upon the pedestal of the Cross. The priest is called "Father" because he embodies the concrete, tender and humble love of a father and not of an authority.
My brothers, as priests you will not rule the faith of others but serve their joy by living your faith in a manner that is concrete, tender and humble. When a couple comes to present themselves for marriage, it is your joy in welcoming them and offering them the hope, support and promise of the Church in the Sacrament of Marriage that touches the heart and begins the process. The same is true when they present their child for Baptism. Always remember that as necessary as parish policies and procedures are in sacramental preparation, they never supersede the persons before you. When humbly hearing the confession of a sinner, you do so with the joy of the Father who desires that none of His little ones be lost. You also do so in the realization of your own faults and sins which need the same understanding and forgiveness. It is not the penitent who should tremble in confession, but the priest at the awesome Ministry he celebrates and at how unworthy he is to do so. Being concrete, tender and humble expresses a joy that is completely personal and dispels gloominess and indifference. It invites others to the Lord.
Another important emphasis of Pope Francis is his Chrism Mass homily was the importance of a priest’s relationship with Mary. He said, "Without her, dear priests, we cannot move forward in our priesthood"! How fitting are his words. It is well for us, as priest, to realize, especially during this Easter season, that it was Mary who handed on to the apostles after the Resurrection of her son all that she treasured in her heart. While they, even though having seen the Risen Lord, were still fearful and confused, it was Mary who lived the joy of her Son from the moment of His conception in her womb.
Mary is a model of what it means to be concrete, tender and humble as well as of one who did not rule over the faith of others but served their joy. Always keep Mary before you as a model and a mother. She is the perfect disciple and was the perfect evangelizer in the manner in which she lived her life. Her preaching was her example. Always remember, as you celebrate the center of your priesthood, the Eucharist, that it is from the body and blood of Mary that the Body and Blood of the Lord came into existence. St. Pope John Paul II often reminded priests of this mystery. Also remember that as Mary incarnated the Lord in her womb, you will incarnate Him upon the altar each day. This is another mystery we celebrate of which we are unworthy.
It is most fitting that you are ordained as priests on the eve of Good Shepherd Sunday. You will celebrate your first Mass as you concelebrate this Eucharist today. However, you will celebrate your first solemn Mass on Good Shepherd Sunday. It is the Good Shepherd whom you will bring to others in your priesthood as you emulate His shepherding. It is He who reveals to you, "I tell you all this so that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete" (Jn 15:11). You are ordained, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so beautifully expressed, to serve the joy of others. You can only do this by your intimate relationship with the Lord and experiencing His joy so you may share it with others. Our Diocese will be blessed with these two new fine priests. May we support them as they support us and may we all know more fully the joy of the Lord. May the Lord who begins this good work in us today continue to bring it to fulfillment.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 12, 2017