Saturday, June 1, was a joyous day for our diocese. I ordained Nathan Brooks to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Please join me in praying for Father Brooks that he may be a faithful servant, tending God’s people with love and mercy. We pray also for our seminarians and ask God to bless us with vocations to the priesthood. The homily I preached at the ordination is printed below.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, and in a most special way my dear son, Nathan:
This is truly a blessed day for all of us gathered here at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception — Nathan’s parents, Randy and Patee; his brothers Josh and wife Suzanne and Neal and wife Lexi; his relatives and friends, priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians, people from our beloved diocese, and visitors who join us and rejoice this day.
As we gather to celebrate this ordination, we are in the final days of the Easter Season. For nearly 50 days, we have been nourished by the joyful news of the Lord’s resurrection, the apostles’ proclamation of this message even amid misunderstanding and persecution, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the formation of the Church. Glorious days indeed!
We look to God’s word for the meaning it brings to this day. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the spirit resting upon God’s chosen, anointing him “to bring glad tidings… heal the brokenhearted… proclaim liberty and give the oil of gladness to all who morn” (Is 61:1-3). Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He was not “a prophet” but “the prophet.” He was not simply a man speaking on behalf of God. He is the very word of God sent by the Father to fulfill a mission.
Before Jesus departed from His apostles and returned to His Father, He entrusted them with a mission. As we heard in today’s Gospel the apostles were told, “Go… make disciples… baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… teach” (Mt 28:19-20) and hand on all they had received from Jesus.
Throughout the many centuries of the Church’s existence, the choice of men by Christ and the transmission of His power to save have been made manifest to generations of believers in the sacred rite which we are about to celebrate. Today we gather to celebrate the gift of anointing and mission to serve which comes with the sacrament of Holy Orders. Today through our apostolic ministry, we see that Jesus continues to call men to be signs of His presence and saving strength. Today, all of us, weak though we might be, are strengthened with good tidings of forgiveness, joy, and peace, as we realize that, through the priestly ministry which our brother Nathan will receive, the prophecy of Isaiah and the commission Jesus gave to His apostles are again mysteriously fulfilled.
My dear son Nathan, from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians you were reminded that you are entrusted with this ministry by God who in His great love set His heart on you. Keep in mind Jesus’ words, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16). The gift you have received should be exercised with humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with others in love. You have a special responsibility to “preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force” (Eph 4:3) and thereby build up the body of Christ “until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4:13).
Nathan, you are about to be set apart for service. With faith, you have answered the Lord’s invitation to be one of His servants. Follow the example given to you by Christ— Teacher, Priest and Shepherd— as well as by other sacred ministers who have preceded you. Faithfully exercise your office in union with your bishop and our Holy Father who regard you as a necessary helper and counselor in their apostolic ministry.
You share with your bishop and fellow priests the task of teaching the people of God. In your preaching, proclaim the Gospel, the good news announced by Jesus. Diligently read and meditate on the word of the Lord that you may believe what you read, teach what you have learned in faith, and practice what you teach.
Approach the Sacred Scripture with an attitude of humble and awe-filled reverence. This humility will help you to recognize that you are not the master or owner of God’s word, but its guardian, herald, and servant (Cf. Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 146). You are called to preach the Lord’s message, not your own. Appeal to all, believers and nonbelievers alike, in the name and power of Christ, so that all will come to accept what God has achieved perfectly through Christ and manifested in your life.
Model your life on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep. Sanctify the people of God by your celebration of the liturgy, especially the sacraments. These are the signs through which the lives of Christian people are changed, as through your sacramental ministry, the Lord Jesus offers them forgiveness, consolation, strength, and mercy. Indeed, through you He offers the very gift of new life. Center your priestly life on the mystery of Christ celebrated in the Eucharist. In this sacrifice, offered through your hands, the source of Christian life is found.
The Good Shepherd offers a powerful image when He tells us He knows His sheep and calls them by name. Pope Francis often speaks about the important relationship between the priest and the faithful people of God. “They remain the source from which he originates, the family with whom he is linked, the home to which he is sent” (May 17, 2016). Be a good shepherd. Embrace God’s people and remember how you are linked to them.
Finally, my brother, realize that Christ the Lord entrusted this special ministry to you as part of His plan of salvation. Be a man whose life is solidly rooted in prayer. Reflect upon the Gospel message and make it a part of your own life. This requires that you daily “contemplate the word of God with love, lingering over it and reading it with the heart” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 254). In addition, you will also need to keep your ear to the people and discover what they need to hear. “A preacher has to contemplate the word, but he also has to contemplate his people. He needs to be able to link the message of the biblical message to a human situation, to an experience which calls out for the light of God’s word” (The Joy of the Gospel, 154).
My son, minister always in union with your brother priests and preserve that bond of love, respect, and peace which unites you with your bishop and our Holy Father. Quoting Pope Francis, “This is the closeness fitting for a priest: Close to God in prayer, close to the bishop who is your father, close to the presbyterate, your fellow priests, as brothers, without speaking badly of one another, and close to the People of God” (Ordination Homily, May 12, 2019).
My dear friends, our brother Nathan comes among you as one who serves. He will act in the name of Christ as a representative of the Church. Receive him as a true minister of Jesus, the Lord. Support him with your prayers and love. Join me in commending Nathan to the maternal care of our Blessed Mother. May she wrap him in her protective mantle all the days of his priestly life.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.