We come together to celebrate a very joyful day in the life of the Church for the Diocese of Palm Beach - the Ordination of Deacon Wesler Hilaire to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is such a fitting day for this celebration – the Feast of the Apostles Saints Philip and James, during this Easter Season when we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. They were among the first to be called by the Lord and to be witnesses to the same ministry to which Deacon Wesler is to be ordained today.
So many present here this morning have been an important part of coming to this day and we are all very grateful to them. Certainly, we are indebted to the Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul for the outstanding formation which Wesler has received from a fine and dedicated faculty of priests and lay persons. We are grateful to the parish of St. Joan of Arc where Wesler spent his pastoral year and also to the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola where he has served as a deacon during the past year. We are deeply grateful to all of his family, his mother and father who could not be with us, and to his family members who are present with us today for this joyful occasion. It is the family from which a vocation to the Priesthood is fostered and nurtured. Indeed, we are grateful to all who have played a role in helping Wesler discern his vocation and to mature in it. Finally, we are grateful to Deacon Wesler who has heard the call of the Lord to be the grain of wheat which falls to the ground and dies in order to bear much fruit by following Christ.
However, today is not about Deacon Wesler, it is not about his family, it is not about the parishes in which Deacon Wesler assisted, it is not about the Diocese of Palm Beach and it is not about the Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul. Today is about what the Apostles Philip and James witnessed to in their ministry - the Person of Jesus Christ. We are all here because we believe in Jesus Christ and in the Church which He has given us in order that we may come to know Him better so that He can be the center of our lives. Jesus makes this very clear in the Gospel of St. John that was proclaimed this morning. We must all lose our lives in order that we might find them in Him and in doing so we will bear much fruit. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians which we just heard, reminds us that the Lord "gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph 4:11 - 13). Indeed, Deacon Wesler will carry out an essential role in the life of the Church reminding each one of us that it is not about ourselves but about the Person of Jesus Christ and Him alone. The great paradox of life is that the more we realize this, the more joyful we become. As the Lord reminds us, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete" (Jn 15:13).
My brother, Wesler, today you are filled with joy because you have reached that day for which you have been preparing for many years and which goes far beyond your time at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. You have reached a goal - Ordination to the Priesthood. Reaching a goal is a wonderful event in anyone's life. However, there can be dangers attached to it about which we must be very cautious. When a goal has been achieved it may appear that there is nothing further for which to strive. Seeing the goal as an end in this way always brings a loss. However, the goal of Priesthood is simply a beginning. While you are conformed to Christ in a unique manner today through the reception of Holy Orders, your growth in Priesthood continues as you continue to grow in conformity to Christ. Today simply cannot be the most joyful day of your life. Perhaps it is for the present time. However, to be a true priest means that you look forward to even more joyful times as your Priesthood unfolds in your life. That joy can only come by growing daily in your relationship to the Lord and in conjunction with your involvement in the lives of the people whom you will serve as a priest. Helping others to grow in their relationship to Christ through your Priesthood is also what will enhance your joy.
In his homily for the Chrism Mass with the priests of Rome this year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke specifically of the joy of Priesthood. He said that, "priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint." The Pope spoke of three significant features of priestly joy which I would like to reflect upon with you, my brother Wesler, as you are anointed today with the oil of gladness. First is the joy which anoints you as a priest. The Pope made clear that it is not a joy which "greases" us as priests, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous. That joy is also one which is imperishable and missionary. The three aspects of priestly joy is that it anoints, is imperishable and is missionary.
Today Wesler, you will be anointed with the oil that will penetrate deep within your heart. You will be strengthened through a special Sacrament which will enable you to share with others the joy which the Lord has given to all of us. You will be anointed down to your very bones and that joy will continue to come from deep within you as long as you continue to grow in relationship to the Person of Jesus Christ each and every day through your prayer.
Your growth in prayer will especially occur in the daily celebration of the Eucharist. I was very struck by your words in your autobiography, Wesler, indicating that what impacted you most about wanting to be a priest was experiencing a priest celebrating Mass and wanting to do the same. As you continue to grow in your Priesthood you will continue to grow in your love for celebrating the Eucharist by which you so closely unite yourself to the Lord that He becomes present in your words which are His words. In this you will continue to feed the people entrusted to your care with what is most important for their lives and that is the reality of the healing Presence of Christ.
Secondly, my brother, your joy will be imperishable if you continue to grow in your relationship to the Lord. Jesus promised that He will give us a joy which no one can take from us. The Pope reminds us that perhaps joy can become dormant when it is clogged by sin or life's troubles yet deep down it will remain intact. In the words of St. Paul to Timothy, always fan the flames of the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands which you will receive today (cf 1 Tim 1:16). You will continue to fan those flames through prayer and attentiveness to the needs of others.
Finally, Wesler, your joy will be missionary. That joy is deeply bound up with God's people and your service to them. Your anointing is meant for anointing God's people, for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them. The Holy Father reminds us that this missionary joy spreads and attracts starting backwards with those who are furthest away from us. On so many occasions Pope Francis has reminded us that the Church must go to the periphery in order to bring Christ's healing love. This will be an essential part of the joy of your priesthood.
My brothers and sisters, Deacon Wesler considered being four things in life, a doctor, an engineer, a geologist and a priest. We are all filled with joy that he heard the Lord’s call to be a priest. As a priest, he will certainly carry out many of the functions of the other states in life as he brings Christ to all of us in our lives and in our needs. He will remind us of what the true meaning of life is all about and of the infinite merciful love of God which touches us all to the core and fills us with joy. We rejoice today with Wesler as we are reminded that all of life is truly about Jesus Christ. Please continue to support and pray for Wesler as well as all of your priests, as Wesler and all priests continue to support us in our relationship to the Lord. May the good Lord continue to bring to fulfillment the good work He begins in Him today. And may Wesler's joy continue to be anointed deep within him, imperishable and missionary.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 23, 2014