June 29, 2011| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 13 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
At the June 25 ordination Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral, Bishop Murphy gave the following instruction to the four men he ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rockville Centre: Richard Mastrogiacomo, Dennis Suglia, Kevin Thompson, and Frank Zero.
And now my dear Sons: what a joy you are to this local Church and how proud and filled with gratitude am I as your bishop to call you and ordain you to share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ!
The Father has known from all eternity His will for you and you have freely responded by saying “yes” to Him and to the Church which is the Body of Christ here on Long Island. As we gather here in this beautiful cathedral we know we are surrounded by Mary and the saints whose loving intercession on your behalf we presently will invoke. Make her and all the saints, from the prophets and apostles to Mother Teresa and Blessed John Paul II, your models in your commitment to seek holiness, the one bedrock of a fruitful priesthood.
The other night at dinner we reflected together on the readings. One of you told me that you chose these familiar words of Isaiah because they are the very words Jesus used to describe his own priestly mission. You want your ministry of service to the people to be identified with Jesus’ proclamation of what he wishes to accomplish in the world: like Him you will time and again bind up wounds, heal the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn, be gentle and loving and bring glad tidings to one and all, but especially to the poor and the lowly, that all your people may know the freedom that only life in Christ can guarantee.
The priests of the Old Testament, following Aaron, were called by God “to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” as Hebrews tells us today. Jesus who follows them became one, like us and with us, so that He might share in our weakness as human beings. He shows us how to offer gentleness, the fruit of the love flowing from the Father through the One who lives in solidarity with us. As priests, you, like Him, are “set apart” for priestly ministry but this “setting apart” is not a separation from your people. As ministerial priests you are different from your people in order to be able to offer them what Christ offers: the Father’s love, a shepherd’s care, a humble priestly service.
Christ we rightly call the High Priest because, “son though he was, he learned obedience through suffering and, when he was made perfect, he became the source of salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest, according to the Order of Melchizedek.” In these words the author of the Letter points out who Jesus is, the Lord, the Christ. You as priests are not simply to admire and be awed by his example. You must freely commit yourself to be conformed to Him and become like Him, accepting suffering for the sake of the Kingdom and the salvation of your people. Suffering out of love is not incidental to the priesthood of Jesus but indeed lies at the very heart of who He is and who you are called to be. You in Him! He in you! And all one in the Father’s love!
This is not always easy but it is the most wondrous and joy filled life any man can ever hope to share! It can never succeed if we depend on ourselves. We must place our lives as priests totally in the hands of God. The words of the Gospel today are part of what we call Jesus’ great priestly prayer. Looking at his fragile disciples on the night before he died, he prayed for them. He prays that same prayer for you now. “Father, I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.” If he prays for you this day and everyday, you must be men of prayer to the Father that your priestly ministry be a total giving of yourself to the people entrusted to you. You must teach them as He has taught you, not your message, not your preferences, but His Word as proclaimed and taught to His Church by the Holy Father and the bishops in union with him. You must shepherd them as he did, in such a way that, hearing your voice, they will hear the call of the Good and Gentle Shepherd who is the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. You must sanctify the People of God through the prayer of the Divine Office, by the gifts of the sacraments especially that great sacrament of mercy, the sacrament of Penance and reconciliation. Above all you must celebrate the Eucharist with and for your people. For a priest is never more a priest than when he stands at the altar in persona Christi, the head and heart of his body, the Church.
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” Thus does Jesus pray that this sacrament of priestly consecration come upon you today. This is not a gift given to you for yourselves. It is a mission you receive, a mission from the Father who sent his son into the world that the world may believe. Go, preach the Word. Go, bring Him to those who are near and those who are far. Go, make holy your people who need you to be holy as your heavenly Father is holy. Our holy Father in heaven sent his son. And he sends you now into the world. He has consecrated you in the truth. The truth is a person. He is the one who is the way, the truth and the life. He is a person, Jesus the Christ. Open your hearts to his love and his guidance. Be holy as he is. Follow him to his cross. Proclaim him to your people. Bring his name to the ends of the earth and be joyful and confident because you, priests of Jesus Christ, have his promise: “I am with you always even to the end of the world.”