Saturday, June 6 was a joyous day for our diocese. I ordained Zachary Miller to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Please join me in praying for Father Miller that he may be a faithful servant and sign of God’s love and mercy to
God’s people. 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.
My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord; My dear Zachary,
One of the most adequate titles which our Christian tradition attributes to the Lord Jesus is that of “servant.” It is a title whose rich meaning is rooted in the Old Testament tradition, the message of God to the chosen people, aimed at preparing the way for the coming of Christ. It is a title which is brought to perfect fulfillment in Jesus, our Lord. It is a “revealing title,” since it teaches us so much about the motivation, personality, and even the mission of Jesus Christ, servant of God and servant of His people.
A prophetic call, such as the one described by Jeremiah in the first reading, is basically a call to service. Prophets, despite their flaws, fears and apprehensions, were men mysteriously chosen by God to speak His Word and go wherever God sent them. By their response to God’s call, the prophets served God by following His will and also served the people of their time by their progressive revelation of God’s plan of salvation. It is not difficult to see how Jesus, who brought to fulfillment the prophetic role, can indeed be called “the servant.”
The message which the Son of God was given to reveal was that of the Father’s love for His people — a love which was made most manifest in the service which our Lord Jesus Christ freely and faithfully performed in obedience to the will of His Father: bringing glad tidings to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind; manifesting the Father’s mercy and love and the mystery of His passion, death and resurrection. Truly, “the glory of God,” His love and mercy, “shone in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
Before His return in glory to the Father, Christ chose His apostles so that through them His ministry of salvation might continue until the end of time. Sharing with them His prophetic anointing, the Lord Jesus commissioned the apostles to serve God and His people as He had done.
By prayer and the laying on of hands, the apostles shared that mission of service with their successors, the bishops, who in turn shared it with their coworkers, the priests. To this very day, this saving ministry is carried on, in the name and power of Christ, by these servants whom He Himself has chosen.
In answer to this mysterious call from the Lord, our brother Zachary wishes to consecrate himself to God and His people for service as a priest. He desires to assist his bishop in his mission of making holy and governing the flock entrusted to his care. Putting aside personal preferences and desire for material gain, he wishes to show his love by laying down his life in service to God’s people. Zachary echoes the words of Peter the apostle proclaimed in today’s Gospel: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Truly it is love of the Lord that prompts Zach to take this step. As he moves forward he will reflect the glory of God, acting in the person of Christ.
True, this is an extraordinary spiritual gift. However, we cannot forget that Zachary holds it “in an earthen vessel” (2 Cor 4:7). Because of this, let us never hesitate to offer him support in action, as well as in prayer.
Zachary, my brother, remember that you have been chosen by Christ to be His servant and a steward of the mysteries of God. By virtue of the sacred ordination which, in the name and power of Christ, we will confer upon you, you will share that ministry by which the Lord builds up, sanctifies and rules His people. Through the same action which comes to us from the apostles in the sacrament of Holy Orders, you will receive a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. Thus you will be so configured to Christ the high priest that you will be able to serve in His person. Be a trustworthy steward of this precious gift. Never forget that the surpassing power of this mysterious gift comes from God and not from you. May this be a source of encouragement in your ministry.
Have the proclamation of the Gospel to all as one of your primary duties and privileges. Take comfort in the words of St. Paul to Timothy, which you chose as your second reading today: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. . . . Attend to the reading, exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the Bishop and the presbyterate” (1Tim 4:12-14). Preach the Word of God in its entirety and remember always that it is His word you preach and not your own.
By your faithful celebration of the mystery of Christ in word and sacrament, you will make holy the people entrusted to your care. Be always aware of the centrality which the Eucharist has in the life of the Church. Remember: the love which must motivate and support your service flows from this Sacrifice. By word and example, instruct the faithful so that they will join to the sacrifice of Christ offered through your hands, the offering of their own lives in service to each other. Persevere in constant prayer with Christ, who “now lives, making intercession for all” (Heb 7:25).
Through the Sacrament of Penance you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. Pope Francis strongly reminds us: “For the love of Jesus Christ: never tire of being merciful! Have the ability to forgive that the Lord had who came not to condemn but to forgive! Be greatly merciful” (Pope Francis, Homily, May 11, 2014)!
As you lead God’s people in the Holy Spirit, see to it that they develop their own vocations as required by the Gospel. Assist them in the attainment of their Christian maturity so that, in each of their lives, they will observe the Father’s commandments, and thus remain in His love.
Always act towards the people not as if merely seeking to win their favor, but in accord with the demands of the Gospel, with the true spirit of service and love. In that same spirit, accept and carry out in faith whatever is asked of you by your bishop and our Holy Father. It is to them that Christ the Lord has fully entrusted the fullness of the pastoral office. Finally, my brother Zachary, may the Lord grant your every prayer. May you feel the power of the Holy Spirit in your priestly ministry as you strive day by day to be poor in spirit, chaste in heart and obedient in love.
Among the many blessings of your life is the fact that you were born, nurtured and raised within the parish community of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is there that you were washed in the waters of baptism, completed the sacraments of Christian initiation and were nourished by God’s Word and the worthy reception of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. It was there that you commended your father to the gentle and tender care of God. For you and your mother and your brothers, Our Lady of Sorrows has been the personification of our mother, the Church. Now may Our Lady of Sorrows wrap her protective mantle around your shoulders and walk with you in both the joys and sorrows of your 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.