Priest as man of communion

Here is the text prepared for Bishop Olmsted’s homily for the annual Chrism Mass.

April 11, 2022

“The joy and the hope, the sorrow and the anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are also the joy and the hope, the sorrow and the anguish of the disciples of Christ. Nothing that is truly human finds an echo in their hearts.

These first words of the Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Council Gaudium and Spes well describe the heart of the faithful followers of Jesus. After a few years of the COVID pandemic and under the shadow of a horrific war of aggression in Ukraine, let it be said of us that “nothing truly human finds an echo in their hearts.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is good for us – clerics, religious and laity – to be united in prayer during this Chrism Mass. In particular, it is good for us priests and bishops to praise God for his unfailing mercy as we remember the day we were ordained to serve him as priests. In the wake of the tumultuous times in which we live, times that could discourage and divide us, our people have the right and the need to hear from us, priests and bishops, a public renewal of the commitment that each has made Jesus on the day of Ordination. The Church asks us priests to renew our priestly promises every year during the Chrism Mass. So, dear brother priests, let us do it with even more determination to grow in our love of Christ and in the faithful service of the people of God.

Doy gracias a Dios por cada uno de ustedes, mis hermanos sacerdotes de la Diocese de Phoenix, hombres de fe viva y siervos generosos de Cristo. As nosotros sabemos muy bien, la habilidad para ser servants de la misericordia de Dios esta’ basada en la llamada de Jesus y la gracia de ordenación sacerdotal. No esta’ basada en que seamos better than otros miembros de la Iglesia. Por la gracia de Dios, somos lo que somos. Jesucristo escoge el débil, no el fuerte; Al mismo tiempo, nos da la gracia para ser siervos fieles de su Reino.

When all the priests of the diocese renew their commitment to priestly service, together as a body united in the holy name of Jesus, they are a symbol of the decisive role that priestly fraternity plays in the life of each priest. You and I are truly our brother’s keepers. In this respect, I give thanks to God for Bishop Nevares, his fraternal love and his delicious way of serving the Lord with joy.

There is great wisdom in Jesus’ plan to send out his apostles in pairs. When we love each other, when we support and encourage each other, when we live priestly brotherhood, the light of Christ shines; and individualism is defeated. We help each other to make a total gift of ourselves to the Lord, following the example of Jesus on the Cross. The brotherhood created by the sacramental grace of Holy Orders provides fertile ground for continued growth in holiness. Remember the words of St. Peter in his second letter (1:10s), “…brethren, be all the more eager to make your calling and your election firm, for in so doing you will never stumble. For in this way entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

It is instructive to recall how Jesus, shortly after beginning his public ministry, began to withdraw from the crowd and call the Apostles apart in order to spend more time with them, explaining to them the meaning of the parables, correcting their false understandings, rebuking them for their selfish ambitions and inviting them to unite ever more closely with Him and with each other. Priestly fraternity, as we see, is not only a sociological concept; it is a sacramental reality willed by Jesus from the beginning. A priest learns to be a man of communion by living in a communion of truth and love with Jesus and with his brother priests. It is both a gift and a responsibility, something we do not deserve, but something to protect and deepen with the help of God’s grace.

In a world that languishes in the anguish of isolation and division, the fraternal bonds that priests maintain among themselves become an ever more precious gift and a light that shines ever brighter in the darkness of unbelief, calling to faith those who have not yet accepted this great gift.

In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus “unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah” and “found the passage where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor ‘.” Then Jesus added, “Today this passage of Scripture is being fulfilled in your ears. “Isn’t that what we seek in our parish communities? The living Jesus Christ never ceases to bring good news to the poor. These Scriptures are also fulfilled when any priest, no matter how his life and ministry seem ordinary, lives like a man of fellowship.

As we invoke God’s blessing on all his people today, we pray with filial respect for Pope Francis and with brotherly love for our brother priests. Also in this Mass, let us pray for our seminarians and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, so that the Lord raises up many more priests to bear witness to his Kingdom. May the words of Gaudium et Spes prove true among us who today are followers of Jesus: “Nothing that is truly human finds an echo in their hearts.”

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