This week, I will have the awesome privilege of ordaining two men to the sacred diaconate, and five men to the sacred priesthood.
Their new lives in these sacred ministries of priesthood and diaconate will begin in the context of the Holy Eucharist. During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I will place my hands upon their heads and pray the ancient words of ordination. They will be changed forever; their souls, configured by an indelible mark, to unity in identity and mission with Jesus Christ.
Worship is, appropriately, the beginning of their sacred ministry. Worship is also the ultimate purpose and end of their sacred ministry. They are ordained to serve the poor in charity, to proclaim and teach the true faith, to offer the ministry of the sacraments, so that every single human soul might encounter Jesus Christ, by offering themselves, first and foremost, to God in sacred worship.
The Holy Eucharist is the source and the summit of their lives in sacred ministry. And the same is true for each one of us. In the Mass, we offer Christ’s self-gift to the Father in atonement for our sins, and we offer ourselves along with it. The Second Vatican Council taught that “the Eucharistic sacrifice”—the Mass—“is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life.”
Those who will be ordained deacons become servants of Christ in the poor and in the Eucharist, as they prepare for priesthood. Those who will be ordained priests become servants of the Lord, and of the Church, as they celebrate and become stewards of the “fount and apex”—the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Everything in the Christian life begins and ends with our participation in Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice on the cross.
The priests and deacons who will be ordained next week have given their lives, in response to God’s call, so that every person can find the “fount and apex” of life, of freedom, of salvation, in worship of the Lord in Holy Mass.
To accomplish their mission, they are anointed in the Holy Spirit, commissioned and empowered to go out to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel, and be an aid to salvation. Priests and deacons are called to walk with Christ’s disciples, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus, to encourage them, to accompany them, to teach them, and then, as Christ did, to feed them—in the breaking of sacred bread in sacrifice of the Mass. Priests and deacons are called to open our eyes, to enflame our hearts, to assure us that Jesus walks along with us, as they do, and to assure us that Jesus calls us to deep friendship and intimacy with him, to the mission of the Gospel, and to holiness.
Pope Francis taught this year that there can be no “Christian mission apart from constant contemplative prayer. The Christian life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God’s word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the privileged ‘place’ for our encounter with God.”
To accomplish their mission, priests and deacons must be men of prayer. Each one of us, in fact, must be men and women of prayer. None of us can fulfill the mission of the Gospel unless we are fed by the presence of the Lord in prayer. In the Christian life, intimacy precedes action.
I ask you to pray, with me, for the men who will be ordained this week. Pray that they will be intimate friends of Christ. Pray that they will be nourished in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and that each one of us will be nourished in the Eucharistic sacrifice through them. Join me in thanking the Lord for the gift of their self-sacrifice. And pray that each one of us will grow in friendship and fidelity to the Lord, so that we are able to hear his call, and strengthened by the “fount and apex” of our Christian life, follow the Lord as he calls us to become saints.