The Holy Priesthood & The Incarnation
June 1, 2012
The following homily was given last Friday, May 25, 2011, by His Excellency, Most Reverend J. Augustine DiNoia,O.P., Secretary for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, during the Mass of ordination which was held in Washington, DC, at the historic Saint Dominic’s Church. Saint Dominic’s is the longstanding host for the Province’s priestly ordinations. ORDINATION HOMILY Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph St. Dominic Church / Washington, DC / 25 May 2012 J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We give glory and praise to God, and invoke the intercession and wisdom of their patron saints this morning, as we prepare to ordain our brothers Jerome Augustine Zeiler, Jordan Joseph Schmidt, Augustine Marie Reisenauer, Michael Dominic O’Connor, and Justin Marie Brophy to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ. Because these our Dominican brothers, and your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, I ask you to consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised. It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of the human race, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue without interruption to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God. This Holy Priesthood may therefore be regarded as an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation itself. The only begotten Son of God, who came to us in human flesh as our Savior did not leave us as orphans after his passion, death and resurrection. After he had ascended to the right hand of the Father, he willed to remain with us always, first of all by his presence in the Holy Eucharist, where he shares with us his body and blood, and remains present for our loving adoration. Christ ensured this by giving to his disciples, and through them, to their successors, the power of the priesthood to commemorate, in persona Christi, in his Person, this very sacrifice of his love and his friendship for us as if we had been present at the Lord’s Supper on that Thursday evening centuries ago. Of this sacrifice, St. Justin Martyr, the patron saint of one our ordinands, wrote: “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (First Apology, 66). Priests are the instruments of this Eucharistic mystery. Through them God wills to pour out his grace—his friendship and love—on us in the Church through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments. In this way, the Son of God continues to be in our midst in a manner adapted to our human nature—by sending his only Son who in turn commissioned the Apostles and their successors—so that we might receive his word and his grace from other human beings. The hand of another human being blesses us, pours the water of Baptism on our heads, offers the body and blood of Christ to us in the Eucharist, and is raised in absolution unto the forgiveness of sins. Through these visible and tangible sacramental actions, God bestows his invisible grace on us, drawing us into a participation in the communion of love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To take up this ministry is no easy task. As St. Augustine wrote: “To lead a life of leisure, free from care, little force would be needed to make me do that. There could be nothing more enjoyable than rummaging about the divine treasure chest, with no one to plague me, but preaching, arguing, rebuking, building God’s house, having to manage for everyone—who would not shrink from such a heavy burden?” (Sermon 339). But, after mature deliberation, our brothers have shown their readiness to embrace this burden, and are now to be ordained to the priesthood so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest , and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple. In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice. And now, dear brothers who are about to be raised to the priesthood, recall with me the words of the Fundamental Constitutions of the Dominican Order: “Made cooperators of the episcopal order by priestly ordination, we have as our special function the prophetic office by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed everywhere both by word and example, with due consideration for the conditions of persons, times, and places so that faith is awakened or penetrates more deeply all life in the building up of the body of Christ, which is perfected by the sacraments of faith” (§V). Dear brothers, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher, and in imitation of our blessed founder, St. Dominic. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach. Imitate Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the successor of St. Dominic, about whom the Lives of the Brethren record that “the word of God fell from his mouth with such spirit and fervor that his equal could hardly be found, for it was clearly the result of a most rare grace. A remarkable ease showed itself in his sermons and familiar conversations, so that whatever and with whomsoever he found himself, whether in the company of religious, clerics, cardinals or prelates, nobles, soldiers, students, or persons of any condition whatever, his flow of language was the same with them all, and was enlivened with apt and happy examples, and it was on this account that all were eager to catch his every word as the word of God” (The Legend of Blessed Jordan, chapter 10). Likewise, dear brothers, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up God’s holy Church. What is more, you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. By your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life. And, when you gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and when you forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance; when you comfort the sick with holy oil and celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. As Pope Benedict declared in his sermon at the Chrism Mass this year on Holy Thursday: “Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfillment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another—of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives….” (Homily for the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, 5 April 2012). Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost. May your lives be marked especially by the same fervent zeal for souls that was manifest in the life of St. Dominic. Listen again to the words of the Pope Benedict: “We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal” (ibid.) in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.