Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Homily for priesthood ordination

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fulfilled in our hearing is a source of hope

Welcome to all of you. My special greeting goes to the parents, families and friends of the ordinandi — some of you who have travelled long distances. We are blessed to have each one of you here today.

As you heard Father Kartje call the names, Dominic, Matthew, Michael, Miguel and Pawel, the names of your sons, brothers and friends, prompting the response “Thanks be to God” and the fulsome applause that followed, no doubt your own hearts surged with joy and gratitude, for you know not only their names but what they mean to you. Thank you for your support and love of them.

You have been part of their formation leading to this day. In fact, it is you, parents, family and life-long friends who were the first formators of their vocations. Speaking to priests last November, Pope Francis urged them to recognize this truth and embrace their personal history.

“The priest,” he said, “is a man who is born in a certain human context: there he learns the primary values, absorbs the spirituality of the people, grows accustomed to relations. Priests also have a history, they are not ‘mushrooms’ that suddenly appear in the cathedral on the day of their ordination… A good priest,” the pope goes on “…is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history, with its riches and its wounds, and who has learned to make peace with this.”

My brothers, you have chosen readings that define your ministry in a number of ways, and I want to address three of them:

First, Jesus calls you “harvesters,” implying that the joy you will experience as a priest is like the joy at harvest time. Having lived and worked in rural states, I know the joy of harvest time.

The rich golden wheat fields of the fertile Palouse region of Eastern Washington come to mind. There the superabundant and booming yield per bushel is regularly some of the highest in the world. It is exhilarating to watch the combines carve around the hillsides giving the impression the earth is getting a haircut.

Yet, the Word of God makes clear that the fields you are to harvest are marked not by healthy, prosperous and vigorous growth but by disease and illness. You are being sent not to where life is thriving and flourishing, but to the lowly, the brokenhearted, captives, mourners, those who are troubled, distressed and abandoned. You are being sent where sometimes there is little joy and gladness. That is why you must bring it.

St. John of the Cross once wrote, “If you go to a place where there is no love, put love there and they will have it.” Your joy and exhilaration will be in seeing the new life and healing, the transformation that will take place as you offer comfort, set captives free, share good news and heal with the oil of gladness.

Remember this as your hands are anointed with chrism. It is the oil of gladness, the pledge that the anointed one, Christ, is with you as you enter the harvest field. And knowing that he has sent you will be your joy, the joy you will offer to others.

The power and gift of language is a second feature of your ministry found in today’s readings. You are to proclaim, announce, offer, glad tidings. Last fall in speaking to the U.S. bishops, Pope Francis urged us as pastors to seriously consider how we use language. If we are serious about promoting a culture of encounter, “dialogue is our method,” he said.

“The path ahead is dialogue,” Pope Francis told us, adding, “I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.” Dialogue aims at understanding; it thinks of others first, and realizes “that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain.”

The opposite is true, he says. “Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor … it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.” And, if a culture of encounter and dialogue is to be sustained in our ministry to the people of God, it must be fully alive first in our relationships with each other, as one presbyterate in the archdiocese which shares in the same Spirit and works together, ever treasuring peace among us.

Remember this as your brother priests join me in imposing hands with the gift of the Spirit on your head. Ever keep in mind that on the day of ordination, as your brothers embraced and welcomed you to this presbyterate, their first word to you was peace. And as you, the faithful of this archdiocese, witness those signs of shared Spirit and the gift of peace, let these actions remind you that “Jesus’ church is kept whole not by ‘consuming fire from heaven’ (Lk 9:54), but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, who ‘heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked’” (Pope Francis, Address to U.S. bishops, Sept, 23, 2015.).

Finally, your ministry is about praying for and attracting other laborers for this abundant harvest. What will be attractive to others is not the work you do, but the joy you bring to it, the confidence you show that Christ is at work in all you do by the respectful and humble way you serve people and share life and ministry with your brother priests.

There is a deep river of goodness in our young people. I have seen it in their concern for the poor, their generous service in volunteer efforts, the willingness to sacrifice for others. Equally, they have in their hearts a desire for solidarity in working with others for a common purpose.

We need to pray this very morning that the Lord stir up in their hearts a generous spirit and the yearning for companionship to be laborers in the field, but we also need to help the Lord attract them by the way we together serve with gladness and friendship. Yes, today let us offer a hopeful prayer to the Master of the Harvest that young men present here today will be attracted by the good they see in you; a prayer that they will be open to Christ’s call to join us in the work of the harvest.

These are some of the things the Word of God offers today as the church ordains you priests, as you enter this presbyterate. You are harvesters anointed to bring the joy to the harvest, anointed to proclaim in speech and action good news and commissioned to pray and work together in a way that assists the Lord to send yet even more laborers into the field.

On Jesus’ first day of public ministry, he cited the passage we have heard today from Isaiah the prophet. Like it was for him, we pray that already on this first day of your ministry, all of this will be fulfilled in our hearing.