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Bishop's Column

Bishop Barbarito Column

May 10, 2024

Priesthood – A Eucharistic Adventure

Editor’s note: The following was Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito’s homily at the priestly ordination of Transitional Deacons Serge Dube and Joshua Martin held May 4 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens.

On the Tuesday of the Easter Octave, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a significant decree, approved by Pope Francis, on human dignity entitled Dignitas infinita. The declaration emphasizes that, “Every human person possesses an infinite dignity, inalienably grounded in his or her very being, which prevails in and beyond every circumstance, state or situation the person may ever encounter.” This is so because every person is created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ. At the same time, the declaration also reaffirms the rights of every person which derive from being made in the image and likeness of God. This affirmation contradicts many popular opinions on moral issues as held by our society today, such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and gender ideology. The declaration likewise affirms the dignity of the disabled, the abused, the outcast, the immigrant and those on the periphery of society.

My brothers, Serge and Josh, as you are ordained priests today, much of your ministry will be in regard to affirming the God-given dignity of every person through your welcome and care of all entrusted to you. As expressed by St. Peter in the second reading for today’s ordination Mass, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s very gift of grace.”

At the same time, it will be your responsibility to proclaim the truth of Christ, always in love, in a world which many times does not wish to hear that truth, too often for political reasons. This will be a challenging task but one in which the Lord will always be present to you. As Pope Francis recently urged the deacons of Rome who are to be ordained priests this year, “Pastoral life is not a manual, but rather a daily offering; it is not a desk job, but rather a  ‘Eucharistic adventure.’ It is about repeating with life, firsthand, ‘This is my body, given to you.’ It is a constant attitude, made up of acceptance, compassion, tenderness, a style that speaks with deeds rather than with words, expressing the language of proximity. It is not about caring for people for ulterior motives, even the best ones, but recognizing in them the unique and wonderful gifts that the Lord has given to serve them, with joy, with humility.” Again, my brothers, this is a challenging mission but one that, as the Lord promises in the Gospel today, will bring you joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

Through the laying on of hands today, you will be configured to Christ in a radical manner. Your very being will be so ordered to Christ so that you will be able to act in His person. However, this configuration does not give you a greater dignity than what you already possess, as does everyone else, created in God’s image and likeness. This configuration is not for your sake but for the sake of all the people of God. Through your priestly character, Christ will be more visible to others so that they may more appreciate the dignity and value which they possess as created in God’s image and likeness. Through that unique configuration, you will become part of a communion of priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach. Our priests are exemplary in their dedication to the varied and challenging ministry for which they have been chosen by Christ. Your ordination is not a personal matter but one that incorporates you into a presbyterate to which you make a fraternal commitment, and which makes a commitment to you.

In a homily to newly ordained priests in Rome many years ago, St. John Paul II instructed: “Your priestly origin is Trinitarian. You are born from the depths of this unspeakable divine mystery: from the love of the Father, the grace of Jesus Christ, from the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, my brothers, Serge and Josh, today your priestly origin is in the depths of the life of God Himself, and you will carry out your ministry most effectively the more you enter into the mystery of the Trinity from which you are born. You will enter that mystery by daily prayer and especially through the celebration of the Eucharist, which will be intimately entrusted to you.

In today’s Gospel passage, Christ speaks of His intimate relationship with the Father and invites all of us into that relationship. Christ particularly calls the priest to such a deep relationship with Himself that the priest, like Christ, should be willing to lay down his life for the people he serves. “This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, the man lay down his life for his friends.” My brothers, you will give your lives to your people as you give them totally to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who are an external exchange of love.

As Pope Francis expressed to the deacons to be ordained this year, your ministry will be a “Eucharistic adventure.” You are being ordained a priest during the course of the Eucharistic Revival within our nation. Eucharistic adventure describes well what your priesthood will be about. Today, after your priestly ordination you will celebrate your first Mass as you concelebrate with me and all of the priests present here today. The Church exists for the celebration of the Eucharist, and the priesthood exists so that the Eucharist can be celebrated within it. Pure and simple, you are ordained today to celebrate the Eucharist from which all the other sacraments and actions of your priestly ministry will flow and to which they will flow back as well. Your celebration of the Eucharist is not a function within the Church but an opportunity for you to have a unique encounter with the Trinity into which you draw the people you serve. The more the words “This is my Body, This is my Blood” become your own words, the more you will experience the joy which the Lord promises you. The adventures of the daily life of a priest are many, but they never should outrank the adventure of the celebration of daily Eucharist, even when it means that you are celebrating it more than once a day. That is not to be avoided but will be part of the adventure of your priestly life.

My brothers, as you begin your Eucharistic adventure today, never be overwhelmed by the challenges that you will face, but always be reassured in the friendship of Christ which you celebrate in the Eucharist in a unique way. As Pope Francis said to the deacons to be ordained, “When one counts on one’s own strength, one risks finding oneself empty-handed.” My brothers, it is only through encounter with the Lord, in prayer, in encountering others and especially in the Eucharist, that one is able to experience the joy that comes from the Lord.

May the Lord who has brought you to this day on which, through your priestly ordination, you are born into the Trinity and begin your Eucharistic adventure, continue to bring it to fulfillment! On the eve of Good Shepherd Sunday, Pope Francis urged the seminarians of Seville, Spain, to always have God in their hearts, to always have open hands and always have a big smile to spread the joy of the Gospel. My brothers, Serge and Josh, in this manner the timeless beauty of priestly life will always be before you!

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito