The Outpouring of the Spirit Upon Our Newly Ordained Priests
Each year with eagerness, we await the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Orders in this archdiocese. On June 13, we celebrated the ordination of five men to the transitional diaconate. Last Saturday, June 20, our family of faith rejoiced with the ordination of nine new priests of our local Church. In addition, next Saturday we will witness the ordination of men to the permanent diaconate. All of these are occasions of great joy because they are expressions of the enduring service the ordained render to the communion of the Church.
In the midst of the many challenges we face today, it is a sign that our Church is alive in the Holy Spirit that so many good men in recent years have answered the Lord’s call. This year we give thanks to God for the ordination to the priesthood of these nine men during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Father Martino Choi, Father Robert Maro, Father William Wadsworth, Father Mathew Fish, Father Conrad Murphy, Father Alexander Scott, Father Angel Gabriel Fermin, Father Santiago Martin, and Father Daniele Rebeggiani.
One of the privileges of being the bishop at the Mass of Ordination is that traditionally we receive the first blessings offered by the newly ordained priests. These blessings are not only a spiritual gift for me, but a reminder that we look to these new priests as the continuation in the Church of the great gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Also, in their ordination we see the answer to the question of how Jesus’ priesthood would continue in all of the centuries and millennia from his Ascension into glory until his return at the end of time. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As the hearts of these men have already been so generously open to the call of the Spirit, so now once again in the Mass of Ordination the Church invokes and witnesses a transforming anointing in the Holy Spirit in a fullness that invests their whole being. The ceremony reaches its focal point when the bishop, in a silent invocation of the Holy Spirit, lays his hands on the head of the elect and thereby makes visible an outpouring of the Spirit.
In the early Church, Saint Paul took great care to ordain the next generation of participants in Christ’s priesthood, mission and ministry. In his first letter to Timothy, the great missionary Apostle tells us how, in this ancient ritual by the laying on of hands, spiritual gifts are conferred on the priest. Paul instructed them not to neglect the gifts, but rather to be absorbed in them.
Today we do the same with the Timothys of 2015. The ordination of these nine new priests conferred on them extraordinary spiritual gifts. This action both transformed those ordained and, at the same time, empowered them to carry out a ministry that goes all the way back to the Apostles and makes present again for us the very love of God.
Christ himself is at work in those who are configured to him. As the Lord Jesus gave himself up for his Bride, the Church, so too are they called to love and embrace the Church. It is for this reason that the candidates for priesthood prostrate themselves to symbolize their total giving of self.
Whatever the challenges our new priests might face, they continue to stand as living links in a chain reaching back over twenty centuries to connect with the very person of Jesus Christ. Through the Eucharist they celebrate, the Gospel they preach, the baptisms they administer, the confessions they hear, the marriages they witness, and the anointing of the sick and dying, priests bring Jesus to their people, and people to Jesus. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit that touched the hearts of these new priests will continue to guide them as they help build God’s kingdom in our world.