-Bp. Mark J. Seitz
Scriptures: Jeremiah 1: 4-9, Heb. 5: 1-10, Matt. 28: 16-20
It is All About Christ!
It has been a long road, hasn’t it—from your homes in the Philippines and in Columbia to your new home in El Paso? This transition has been followed with many years of study and discernment. Now at the culmination of this long process of preparation we have arrived at the moment of your Ordination as priests.
We would do well as we enter into this auspicious event to consider what it is you are about to receive and what you are to become. Forgive me if I begin with a bit of a via negativa, but it is sometimes easier to begin by saying what this is not if we are to understand what it is. Based upon the very readings you chose we can say: It is not your words. It is not your priesthood. It is not your power. No son sus palabras. No es su sacerdocio. No es su poder.
Consider once again my dear brothers the passages you chose. In the first reading which recounts the call of the Prophet Jeremiah, God calls Jeremiah and Jeremiah demurs, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” Jeremiah was understandably frightened upon receiving the call, because like all of us, he thought it would all be on him… Remember what God says to him then? “See, I put MY words in your mouth…whatever I tell you, you will speak…” It is not your words. No son sus palabras.
In the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews we heard the writer speaking about the priesthood. Of whose priesthood was he speaking? Listen again to the passage: “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” He is speaking of the High Priests of the Old Covenant—the Levites who offered animal sacrifices on behalf of the people.
Then he continues, “No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” (He is still speaking of the Old Testament High Priesthood.) But then he continues, “In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.” Just as he says in another place, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” To whom is the writer now referring? To Christ! Jesus is the new High Priest. The author is not referring to your priesthood, but to that of Jesus. It is not your priesthood. No es su sacerdocio.
Let’s move on to the Gospel passage we just heard. When the risen Jesus appears on the mountain what does he tell them? Then Jesus approached and said to them, “ALL power in heaven and on earth has been given TO ME.” If ALL power is given to Christ, how much power belongs to you? NONE! Clearly, it’s not your power! No es su poder.
So, based upon the very Scriptures you chose for you Ordination we have established very convincingly, It is not your words. It is not your priesthood. It is not your power. ¿Estan de acuerdo? Are you with me?
So what’s left, you may ask? Why are we here? The truth is that what we believe about the priesthood of Jesus Christ is even more wonderful than what we might imagine. If the word and the priesthood and the power is not yours, it must be His!
In your Ordination as priests of the New Covenant Christ is conforming you to himself, making you extensions of his presence and saving work in the world. By virtue of your Ordination when you speak in union with the Church it will be Christ who speaks. When you enact Christ’s Sacrifice as his priest, it will be Christ who acts. When you lead God’s holy people in union with your bishop it will be Christ who leads.
How else could we explain the words we speak in celebration of the Sacraments when you say, “I baptize”, “I absolve”, “This is my Body”. In those most sacred moments is it you who speaks or is it the Christ who has conformed you to himself in his priesthood?
What a wondrous mystery we celebrate here today! In one sense we could say it is not about you at all. It is all about Christ: his word, his priesthood and his power. In another sense it is about a work even greater and more glorious than we might have imagined. It is about Jesus our Savior and our Lord, he who is Word and Priest and Power choosing to make himself present through two humble instruments named Gleen and Apolinar, to dwell among us and to guide and care for the holy people of God through you.
To Christ be glory and honor and power forever and ever. Amen