My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Because Anthony, Sebastián, Juan Carlos, Marcin, Gabriel, Joseph, Marco, Diego and Jakov, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be ordained to the priesthood, I invite you to consider in the light of the Word of God we have just heard the sacrament that they will now receive. As you well know, the Lord Jesus is the one and only great high priest of the New Testament; but in him God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood. All of us!
Nevertheless, among his disciples, the Lord Jesus chooses certain ones to carry out, in his name and on behalf of the human race, a priestly office publicly in the church in order that they may continue his personal mission as teacher, priest and shepherd.
It seems to me that three considerations are especially important in understanding the office, which our brothers will assume today. The ordained ministry is to be exercised in a personal, collegial and communal way.
Ordained priesthood should be personal because the life of a priest is a vocation, not a career choice. Priestly ministry is not a selfie! The first reading describes a personal call, reminding us that Jeremiah was destined to become a prophet from his youth. God spoke to his heart, and as the prophet became aware of this call, he could not help but be overwhelmed by his unworthiness.
My brothers, a similar call began to whisper in your hearts some years ago. If you are like most of us, as the call became more insistent you have become increasingly aware of your limitations and weakness. Today you hear that divine call through the Church. It is in the name of the Church that I call you to Orders. Through those especially responsible for your formation, the Church has judged your vocations as authentic responses to the God who loved us first. Although you are conscious of your weakness in the face the great gift you will receive, the judgement of the Church should give you confidence.
Priestly ministry should also be collegial, for there is need for a college of ordained ministers sharing in the common task of nurturing the community. You will exercise priestly service in union with your bishop and your fellow presbyters in a particular Church.
I am your fellow worker, and I speak in the name of all those who exercise episcopal office. In a few moments, you will hear me publicly recognize my own weakness and my need for you to help me exercise the priesthood that comes to us from the apostles. On your part, you will need your bishop and your brother priests in order to live authentically your vocation as priests and grow in holiness. Your brothers in the priesthood will join me in laying hands on your heads. Even though priests are assigned to different duties, nevertheless they carry on one priestly ministry for the People of God. All are united in the building up of the Body of Christ. It is very important that all priests, whether diocesan or religious, help one another always to be fellow workers in the truth. Each one, therefore, is united to others in special bonds of apostolic charity, ministry and fraternity.
Finally, the intimate relationship between the ordained ministry and the community should find expression in a communal dimension, where the exercise of the ordained ministry is rooted in the life of the community and requires the community’s effective participation in the discovery of God’s will and the guidance of the Spirit. Even when you preside at the Eucharistic, you remain part of the assembly of the priestly, holy and royal People of God, whose care is entrusted to you.
My brothers, today you are consecrated so that by the words of your preaching and the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel may bear fruit in human hearts and reach even to the ends of the earth. The mission of this Archdiocese, which in accomplished to the extent that the message of salvation is welcomed and shared, depends on your ceaseless labor in leading communities of missionary disciples, men and women, young adults and children, who are not called to be salt for the salt shaker, that is, members of cozy enclaves of like-minded people, shuttered against an unbelieving world. You must nourish them with Word and Sacrament, so that all become salt for the earth, light for the world. Today, more than ever, the Archdiocese of Newark needs her priests to show all the baptized how to live as missionary disciples.
It is true that no Christian community is built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist, at which you will preside. Nevertheless, this celebration, if it is to be genuine and complete, should lead to various works of charity and mutual help, as well as to missionary activity and to different forms of Christian witness.
My brothers, I ask you to speak from your hearts to the hearts of your people. Priests do this by imparting to everyone the word that we have received with joy. We cannot give what we do not have.
Anthony, Sebastián, Juan Carlos, Marcin, Gabriel, Joseph, Marco, Diego and Jakov, Jesus gives you His word that His joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. Treasure this word, for it will lead you to the greatest love of all that will form your priestly hearts: the love that leads each day to joyfully lay down your lives for your friends.