With great joy I welcome clergy, religious and lay faithful, diocesan and parish staff and members, seminary officials, seminarians, seminary prospects and most especially, Deacons Pat Broussard and Ryan Hallford and deacon candidate Tim Grimes, their families and friends. Ordinands, I recognize the circuitous routes which have led you here. I thank you and those who have supported you along the way. Ultimately we thank God who has directed you. Let us also offer special prayer for Aminthe Broussard, late wife of Deacon Pat. May she rest in peace.

Used annually at the Chrism Mass, both from its original source (Is 61:1, 2), and from which Jesus quoted in the temple (Lk 4:16-21), our first reading indicated Jesus’ mission. To be ordained means to be ordered to Jesus himself and to carry out his role as the Good Shepherd “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18). The ordained not only represent Christ; they truly re-present him in person and ministry.

Though St. Paul composed most of his Letter to the Philippians while in jail, his dozen uses of the words “joy” and “rejoice” qualify its designation as the “epistle of joy.” The passage, chapter 2:5-11, is known in format by the Latin Carmen Christi (“Hymn of Christ”), and in content by the Greek kenosis (“self-emptying”). It emphasizes Jesus’ humility (not to exploit his divinity) and exultation (glorification) by the father. What a profoundly deep and moving depiction this hymn is of the humility and charity of Christ. The letter directly confronts the Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, rather regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

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Clergy understand their own personal unworthiness to minister. Even more challenging is to sufficiently fathom on a daily basis the power and effect of what we do. St. Charles Borromeo wrote to his brother priests: “If we could only bear in mind the exalted character of the things the Lord has placed in our hands, what unbounded influence would this have in impelling us to lead lives worthy of ecclesiastics” (quoted in Haerent Animo, 1908). Those of us especially privileged from sacred ordination need to be awe-struck by and deeply contemplate the mysteries we celebrate as deacons, proclaiming and preaching God’s holy word, baptizing and exercising service of the altar and charity; as priests, additionally to confect the Eucharist, absolve sinners, anoint the sick, and by delegation to confirm; and all the more humbling as bishop by office to ordain and to confirm. This hymn triumphantly culminates: “Jesus Christ is Lord,” proclaiming and heralding Jesus as Kyrios, the very name of God.

The Gospel account of the familiar encounter between the risen Christ and (St.) Peter is dramatic. To Jesus’ triply asked question: “Simon, do you love me?” (St.) Peter consistently responds: “You know that I love you.” At the first level of understanding it is clear Jesus provided (St.) Peter the opportunity to reverse his earlier triple denial of even knowing Jesus, both circumstances in a setting of charcoal fire (Jn 18:18, 21:9). At a second level it gave Jesus the opportunity to emphasize (St.) Peter’s role to assume the ministry of Jesus himself as the new shepherd by the command: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” At a third level I believe Jesus was telling (St.) Peter how the words “I love you” are as magical to him as they are to us. In this context we recall the poignant insight of Pope Francis: “The Lord never tires in forgiving us. We are the ones who tire of asking forgiveness” (Angelus, March 17, 2013).

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The book of Ecclesiastes attests: “God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into (our) hearts” (3:11). In the liturgy eternity coalesces with time. The role and function of the ordained are to sacramentally minster the timeless in time. Pope Emeritus Benedict once wrote: “Because of the Incarnation in which Christ took on flesh, ‘time co-exists with eternity’… God’s eternity is not mere time-lessness, the negation of time, but a power over time that is really present with time and in time” (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, 92). Accordingly, this ordination intersects and impacts both time and eternity, making the transcendent immanent. When the ordained celebrate a sacrament, a dimension beyond the earthly and the physical senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell takes place. As previously mentioned, the mystery of the triune God dwarfs our ability to adequately perceive the life-changing effect of our ministry, individually and collectively. In the cogent words of St. Paul to the Ephesians (3:17-21): “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, that, rooted and grounded in love, you may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Let us pray: “Dearest God, we the ordained, the to-be-ordained and the faithful acknowledge, praise, bless, adore, glorify and thank you. As your people (Ex 6:7, etc.), the community of believers (Acts 4:32), the body of your son (I Cor 12:27) and the temple of your Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:9), convicted of our sins, yet convinced of your call and committed to your service, we dedicate ourselves to you. Take us as we are; make of us what you will. Enable us to commune, dialogue, reflect and radiate you in heart, mind, spirit, emotion and will. Enlighten, inspire, ennoble, embolden and empower us to an ever deeper union with you, to the glorious honor to share you, and to the unique dignity, opportunity and direction you afford us. Sanctify, heal and strengthen us so we may be such instruments to others. Grant us an abundance of your providential presence, grace, peace and love. Entrust us to be the embodiment of and instrument for you. For we offer ourselves, our lives, our ministry and our prayer to you, father almighty, beloved son and Holy Spirit, ever invoking the powerful intercession of your mother and our mother, Mary, and all the angels and saints. Amen.”