My dear brother priests,
my brothers and sisters,
and my dear Father Asante,
As an older brother whom you have called Father, I have been particularly touched by the wondrous ways in which Christ has conformed you to his own image. The words spoken by the Bishop as he placed the chalice and paten into your hands a mere 30 hours ago have been lived by you since your mother first carried you in her arms. Through all the years, on all the many roads, you have sought to know what you were doing, to imitate the mysteries you have celebrated and to conform yourself to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.
The Psalmist is right this Trinity Sunday when he proclaims the people the Lord has chosen as Blessed, who in his kindness sends shepherds to lead them to restful pastures. Good shepherds, who know their sheep and are known by them, who will not abandon the flock to the wolf, and who seek out the lost and carry them home.
To the congregation:
This man, your brother and freind, who sits in the Chair of Moses for the first time today, has become such a shepherd. He did it, or rather God has accomplished this shepherd-making, by inviting him into an intimate relationship with Christ Jesus, the High Priest and Shepherd, since Eric was just a ittle boy, and all through school, and all through seminary. By two continents of faithful Cathoics, Eric has been formed and shaped into the image of Christ, whose sacraments he will celebrate, whose Gospel he will preach and in whose footsteps he will seek to lead a holy people for the rest of his life.
You do not yet know this people, Eric. But they are waiting for you, many of them not yet born. You will console and challenge them, you will teach them, young and old, to cry Abba in their need. You will baptize their childen and bury their dead. You will encourage them to carry their crosses and dry their tears. Through you, Christ will love them, forgive them, and strengthen them for their journey through this life.
And when, in the years to come, things get tiresome or tough, just keep thinking of them...the thousands who are waiting for you in the years to come. For they are now your daughters and sons, your brothers and sisters. And they need you to bring them the real presence of Christ by the Sacrament you have received.
The Gospel in which the Lord gives to his disciples the mandatum, he gives to you as well today: “Go...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
There’s a curious line in that Gospel. Did you catch it? We are told that just before the Lord send them forth, the disciples worshipped the Lord, “but they doubted.” Doubt is the default position of the human condition, it is the plague of our age and our constant temptation. Your life, dear Father Eric, will be spent dispelling doubt, but God has chosen, in you, an apt instrument for the task.
In homiletics class, each time I heard you preach, I was reminded of your greatest strength. You heard me say it over and over again. For each time I hear your deep and resonant voice, filled with hope and sincerity, it sounds like God is talking. And, you know, he is. God is talking to us through Eric, Christ is speaking and acting through Father Asante.
How can anyone ever doubt again, before such a wonderful manifestation of God’s love for us?!
So now you will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the Lord for us, you will offer his perfect sacrifice for us, joining us to him and making sense of our lives. You will baptize us into his death and resurrection, feed us with his Body and Blood, seal our covenants, heal our sick, forgive our sins and bury our dead. You will be Christ for us.
Not because we chose you, but because he chose you, and sent you to be our shepherd and our Priest.
Saint Francis of Assisi used to say that if he met a saint and a priest on the road he would be nice to the saint, but he would kiss the hands of the Priest. We venerate those hands which you have placed into the hands of Christ and which will touch us with the mysteries of his love for many many years to come.
Monsignor James P. Moroney