Bishop Morales’ Homily at the Ordination of Deacon Waylon Lawrence to the Priesthood
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, treat PAX!
Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of the moment in which Jesus, moved with compassion for the people of God, told His disciples: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” It was the moment in which He sent out His disciples with a specific mission and with the strength and power needed to face it, but the disciples were not yet ready. They were only able to realize this mission after they received the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, which freed them from fear, strongholds and human respect. They were filled with the power from on high and began to fully engage in that mission entrusted to them by the Lord.
The mission of the Church is to continue the mission of Jesus (John 20, 21). Those of us disciples of the Lord, who form the Church, who are members of His “Body” (1Cor 12, 12), with our qualities and gifts, in our time and place, are called to continue what our Lord Jesus began. The Holy Spirit gives us strength. His light, His counsel, and His wisdom allow and encourage us to continue listening to the marvels of God and to show His project of love to other men, cultures and situations. The Spirit “translates” through our lives that old yet always new message. Not the confusion of Babel, but the beautiful and eternal announcement of Pentecost. This was and continues to be the miracle and the gift of the most beautiful Good News.
That morning of Pentecost we were already there. Because today at this Cathedral of St. John in Quincy, two thousand years later, the same encounter with the Holy Spirit takes place; an encounter that becomes a call, a consecration and a sending out for this our brother, Waylon.
At the beginning of time, God created a wondrous and unique message to share with you, and for you to announce to those you will encounter. He has reserved from the beginning that gift which He crafted, and with your hands and your lips He has decided to share it. He already knew your name. He had already created you in His eternal project. It was only a matter of waiting for the appropriate time and a place when your life of ministry would be made recognizable and certain. And the hour has come. Today, you have come before us; the Church of God, and there are many faces looking at you with wonder at the mystery revealed.
You are a unique and unedited biography and you carry with you the countless number of people, circumstances and places through which your life is maturing and growing: your family, who share with you the joy and wonder of this day; friends who have walked with you during your years of discovery and times of struggle, amidst the sun and shadow; seminary colleagues and professors and all those who have been a part of your formation. So many names, so many places, so many moments! Now they and all the experiences you have shared are concentrated in this unique instant of your human and Christian biography.
The last word is not given to those gratifying moments where you enjoy success and the applause that goes with it, nor is it given to moments of trial, misunderstanding and distress. No, the last word is always reserved to God and only to God. It is His right and no one and nothing can take that from Him. And His last word does not humiliate. It doesn’t say who’s right. Rather, He mysteriously writes the history in which He has made us, His children, to be active participants. By which we are made free, understanding, grateful, and capable of true joy and honest forgiveness. We are all here as witnesses to this story, the one for which you were born.
Dear Waylon, you are about to be ordained. You have heard me say this at other ordinations, and in our personal encounters as well, when I have spoken passionately of the greatness of this vocation, in which there is no place for indifference, entanglement or distraction. Let me tell it to you again, in a loud voice, on this your ordination day, so that you and all the clergy here present may make it our own and that we may ask and desire it as a prayer rising to heaven.
First of all, you are to be a priest in the one and only eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. He woke up early every morning and spent time in vigil every night so He might listen to the word of the Father and approach the Beauty of His merciful face. Never neglect to imitate the Master, so that your words as a cure of souls will be an echo of what God Himself screams and whispers through you. May everything you lift and sustain with your voice and hands be a reflection of what the Lord Himself desires; in care and defense of His people. As a minister of the Sacraments, the signs which save us, you must be the first beggar of that grace which you receive with piety and gentleness; in order to share it with those entrusted to your care. As a preacher of the Word of Life, you must be the first listener; to take it in like Mary, keeping in your heart everything God tells you and wants you to keep in secret.
Second, with your ordination you will become a part of that apostolic fraternity called the priesthood or presbytery. Your brother priests, as you have seen and will come to know, are of different ages, formation, attitudes and styles. Never isolate yourself, but offer with simplicity the truth of who you are, what you live and all that your determination and desire to be a holy and self-giving priest can gift us. Don’t be discouraged by the few bad examples, the fruits of the fragility and infidelity to the call. On the contrary, be attentive so you may discover the countless testimonies of good priests who both in the youth and in the maturity of their ministry continue to have a strong vision and a willing response to the call of the Lord in His Church. Be thankful for their witness.
And finally, as a new priest, love the people the Church entrusts to you and be for them a good shepherd, while allowing yourself to be shepherded by the Good Shepherd who accompanies you and sends you. Care for your preaching and live the Sacraments with which you will bless your people. May all your life be a sign of the dedication, mercy and tenderness the Lord calls you to express. As you know, to be a priest is not an excuse for a career or for finding a job that excludes your ministry or for putting an end to that which has been given to you simply for convenience. Allow yourself to be sent and may your willingness never be tainted with even a small note of unconfessed interests or a cheating word that betrays this moment’s yes. If you trust in God, if you allow yourself to be accompanied by the One who calls and accompanies you, you will see how the promise of happiness that is tied to your fidelity is not an illusion or a fantasy but a reality. Nourished with the same grace with which you will minister, your life will be filled with a serene joy and empty of hidden resentments. Sustained by this, doing much good and giving much peace, precisely as God does with you every step of the way.
Be a pastor, not a functionary. Be a mediator, not an intermediary. Be a healer. And, I would add, may the joy of your fidelity be the finest vocational affirmation possible, one which will stimulate you inwardly and outwardly; in your consecrated soul and your priestly vestments; so you may be an example and an inducement for others called by the Lord. He gives us the vocation, but leaves the revelation to us.
Today, this Cathedral is a new upper room. We are here with Mary, the mother of Christians and with all the Church gathered here. We await the promised Holy Spirit, so that from the vocation we have received we may each communicate with joy to a sunken and mistreated world the Good News which allows us to narrate the marvels of God, in order to gladden the city.
The Rt. Rev. J. Alberto Morales, OSB