Ordination day homily of Archbishop Nienstedt

| May 30, 2015 | 1 Comment
Archbishop John Nienstedt delivers his homily during the ordination Mass. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop John Nienstedt delivers his homily during the ordination Mass. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Here is the text of the homily of Archbishop John Nienstedt at the ordination Mass of eight men at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, May 30, 2015.


Isaiah 61:1-3
2 Cor 4:1-2, 5-7

John 20: 19-23

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard

What God has ready for those who love him;

Spirit of love,

Come, give us the mind of Jesus,

Teach us the wisdom of God.”

This is a great and glorious day for you eight ordinands, your family and friends, your brother priests and for the whole Church of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. All of us rejoice that today you freely hand over to the Lord your minds and hearts, your talents and gifts, your strengths and weaknesses, your hopes and your dreams. Through the laying on of hands and the prayer of the Church, the gift of your lives will be accepted and consecrated to the Lord; you will be conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, Chief Shepherd and Teacher. United with Christ, the head of his body, the Church, you will preach the Gospel, shepherd his people and, most importantly, celebrate the sacred liturgy, the making present and contemporary the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

The Gospel passage that you, my brothers, have chosen is the one we heard last Sunday on the Feast of Pentecost. On that first Easter night, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were locked in the Upper Room, and, after greeting them with his “Shalom,” he breathed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit, sending them forth into the world in much the same way as His heavenly Father had sent Him into the world. From that point on, they were to take up the mission of binding and loosening the sins of mankind. It was an awesome, grace-filled responsibility that you, my brothers, will likewise soon receive.

And the words of today’s first reading from Isaiah was the very passage that Jesus chose for his first preaching in his hometown of Nazareth. These words described the meaning of his anointing, as well as that of your own. You are anointed to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the imprisoned, to announce a day of vindication by our God and to offer comfort to those who mourn.

But as St. Paul quickly reminds you in today’s second reading, you will hold the treasure of Christ’s mission in “earthen vessels” so that this surpassing power may be of God, not from yourselves. Holy Orders in the Church is not about power, prestige, advancement or rights; rather, it is always about humble and self-less service to God’s holy, yet sinful people. But, as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was fond of saying, “You will not be able to take Christ to others, unless you have first discovered him in your own fervent and constant prayer and in your attentiveness to his presence in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Recently, I came across a quotation from Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, which he addressed to the Presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Warsaw in May of 2006. He advised those priests gathered in St. John’s Cathedral with these words:

“Believe in the strength of your priesthood! Through the sacrament of your Holy Orders, you have received all that you are. When you say the word ‘I’ or ‘my’ (as in ‘I absolve . . . this is my Body . . .’), you are not doing it in your name, but in the name of Christ, ‘in persona Christi’, who wishes to use your mouth and hands as well as your spirit of sacrifice and talents. At the very moment of your ordination, through the liturgical signs of the laying-on of hands, Christ took you under his special protection; you are concealed under his Hands and in His Heart. Plunge deep into His love, and give Him your love in return! When your hands were anointed with oil, a sign of the Holy Ghost, they were destined to serve the Lord as if they were His hands at work in the world around us today. They can no longer belong to just you, but have to carry forth to the world the witness of His love. . . .

“The faithful expect only one thing from their priests—that they can successfully convey and encourage the concept of mankind meeting God. Nobody asks the priest to be an expert economist, builder or politician, but he is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. To this end, when a young priest starts out, he must be able to seek guidance from an experienced teacher, who will help him not to lose his way when faced with the countless enticements of today’s cultural environment. Faced with the temptations of relativism or permissiveness, it is in no way necessary for the priest to know all the highways and byways of current thinking, which, apart from anything else, is constantly changing. What the faithful expect of him is that he be the witness to eternal wisdom as contained in the word revealed. It is attention to the quality of personal prayer and the sound theological training which bear fruit in life. . . . In reality, we become emotionally mature only when our hearts are in step with God. Christ needs priests who are mature, strong and capable of cultivating a genuine spiritual paternity. For this to happen, one needs to be honest with himself, to be open with one’s spiritual mentor and to trust in divine mercy.”

How important it is to hear these words of this revered and intelligent pastor. What we offer the people of God is not the gift of ourselves, but the gift of God, of Jesus Christ working through our personalities flawed at times as they may be. It is feeding God’s people with spiritual nourishment, particularly in the great sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, bringing them to a deeper appreciation of Christ’s Body and Blood, indeed, to deeper insight and knowledge of that wonderful mystery which you will soon celebrate.

My dear sons, today the Lord Jesus is immersing you in himself and he will continue to do that every day for the rest of your lives. And this is why you must never cease to be immersed in the truth of the Gospel, in the truth proclaimed by the Church’s Magisterium, as well as in the truth that is found in self-less service to the poor, the sick, the lost, the forgotten, the stranger in our midst. Never put off until tomorrow the needs that come to your attention today, even if it means depriving yourself of something you justly deserve. Again, I remind you—our great High Priest came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life on behalf of the many. In faithful imitation of him, we cannot fail to do the same.

And being immersed in Jesus also implies that we have a deep adherence in sonship to his Blessed Mother, who serves for us as a model of docility and obedience.

As Pope Francis writes in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium:

“Mary is the one who carefully keeps ‘all these things, pondering them in her heart.’ (Luke 2:19). Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s spirit in events great and small. She constantly contemplates the mystery of God in our world, in human history and in our daily lives. She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also our Lady of help, who sets out from her town ‘with haste’ (Luke 1:39) to be of service to others. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization. We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a Mother for all peoples, and that the way may be open to the birth of a new world.” Evangelii Gaudium (p. 288)

My dear brothers, as you strive to live out your promises of obedience, celibacy and simplicity of life, turn to Jesus’ Mother, the ever chaste Virgin, and the ever obedient servant, for guidance and strength. Through her intercession may you grow ever closer in the radical and permanent conformity to her Divine Son, which is the very essence of holiness. Entrust yourself and your ministry to her—for she will always lead you closer to Jesus.

And finally, my dear brothers, I ask you to pray for me, your bishop. In God’s providential love, he has willed that it is through my hands that you are ordained priests today. That fact forms a permanent bond between you and me that will endure even unto eternity.

In summary, then, I urge you to look to the Risen Christ, our Good Shepherd, who came not to be served but to serve, the one who has searched for you and never looked away from you and lavishes upon you the dignity of his own priesthood this day. It is this great pastor, the pastor bonus, who calls you today by name, and who invites you to share in his own great mission of leading the chosen flock to the green pastures of our heavenly homeland. His own rod and his staff are the authority you will gently bear, his own cross will guide your way and give you truly supernatural strength. But remember always: you are also the wounded one whom he has placed on his shoulder—you are the beloved—you are carried by him who leads you home—into his own Sacred Heart.

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Category: Ordinations