The sacramental grace, joy of the priesthood Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 -- 1:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends in Christ,

It has been a while since I’ve been able to write down here my thoughts for you in the form of a column. Know that you’ve been very much in my thoughts and prayers, especially as we come upon Christmas.

This week I’d like to share with you my homily from the wonderful Priestly Ordination we were fortunate to celebrate this past week. At this ordination the Lord blessed us with two great young men as priests and blessed me in a special way with two new sons.

I address my homily to Fr. John Putzer and Fr. Chad Droessler, but I think the words are a good reflection for all of us on the priesthood and on the great Grace with which the Lord blesses all of us:

Dear Chad and Dear John, my sons. Tonight you really become my sons and I am very grateful to both your parents and especially to your dads for showing you what fatherhood is all about because in a very special way I become your father tonight through the Sacred Sacramental seal of Holy Orders, and so too do you take on the role of “Father” this night. A spiritual bond unites you to the bishop tonight in one of the deepest spiritual relationships that is possible — a really deep and wonderful spiritual relationship of son to father. I cherish that and I cherish you.

In the readings tonight the Lord says to Jeremiah, “I have placed my words in your mouth.” That is a very, very important truth. As you are ordained, the Lord places His words into your mouth. It is just one example of how, from this moment on, you are no longer Chad and John simply, you are Christ — He dwells within you. Your “I,” your ego, becomes “not I” tonight in a very significant way.  In just a while, the Holy Spirit will rush onto your soul and change you by remaking you into the likeness of Christ the Priest, something very good for yourselves, but something also that is terribly important to God’s people, because we have so desperate a need of that priestly presence of Christ. We all have that need. As the prayer says, I need your help and I know I can always count on you. And I want you to know today that you can count on me.

God’s word in your mouth

“I have placed my words in your mouth,” the reading says. And that “word” is also the Scriptural “word.” The Scriptural “word” becomes your word and the distinction between your mind and heart in the Truths of Scripture fades. The Word of God and of Christ in the Scripture becomes your word. Jesus gives it to you — imagine that — in a real sense you “own” it. Ordination to become “another Christ” is very real. Its not that we simply treat you as if you were another Christ, you are another Christ. And that is the incredible, miraculous power conferred in this Sacrament tonight.

“I have placed my words in your mouth,” that also has something to do with the new liturgical texts that will be used at all of our parishes a year from now. With this change we should come to realize more that the liturgy is a gift. The liturgy is the Lord’s words being placed in your priestly mouths, through the Church. The liturgy can never become “your words,” or “my words,” or “our words.” The liturgy embodies the words of the Holy Spirit that are given as a gift. And if we really appreciate any gift, we protect it! As God places His words in your mouth, you become not masters in any sense, but servants of the liturgy, just as my brother priests and I have to be.

Obedience to Christ

In the second reading, we heard that Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered. There is a lot of suffering that goes along with the married life, a lot of self-sacrifice, and there is a lot of suffering that goes along with the priesthood. But, it is that suffering through which you learn faith. Obedience is the obedience of faith, and Jesus himself learned obedience, the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, by what he suffered on the cross. If Jesus is not spared the school of suffering in order to learn obedience, neither can you or I be.

Tonight you will renew your promise of obedience and respect to the bishop and that is a promise that entrusts the rest of your life, day-by-day, into the hands of Jesus Christ, through the Church. Not that the bishop ever wants to become a master and you a slave, but the bishop has to obey the Holy Father, and you are called to respect and obey the bishop as the bishop respects and obeys the Holy Father. We’re all in it together.

One of the main areas where you are called to obedience is in living out, day-by-day, your promise of celibacy. Celibacy is just one way of your expressing your obedience to Christ. He has given you a very mysterious gift — and again if it’s a cherished gift, it must be protected. From one point of view we protect the liturgy, so that it’s always God’s gift, and in the same way we receive with joy the gift of celibacy and it has to be protected as part of our life of obedience.

It really is a beautiful thing that you would look Jesus Christ in eye tonight and say, “Here is my blank check, you fill it in, Lord Jesus.” We never know exactly where we’ll end up and exactly what we will be doing, and exactly what challenges we will confront, but it’s more important for us that we would remain alive with Christ than it is to have our own way. In this way, obedience and celibacy when lived faithfully are proof of the existence of God — stronger than any other proof — and the Lord trusts you so much that he entrusts the living of that proof into your hands tonight.

‘Do you love me?’

Lastly, in the Gospel, even Peter had to be asked three times, “Do you love me?” Peter takes that to mean that the Lord doesn’t trust him the first time and the second time. He almost wants to say to the Lord, we can imagine, “How many times do you have to ask — I’m doing my best.” But, in fact, with Peter and like Peter, every day — not only three times, but every day — the Lord will ask you and me, “Do you love me?” He’ll ask us that in moments of temptation. He’ll ask us that in moments of weakness or confusion in our own faith. He’ll find a thousand ways to ask us, every day, “Do you love me?”

Do we love the Lord especially through our daily prayer? That’s where the question gets asked and answered — through our daily office, our meditation, our holy hour, our rosary, all culminating in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which we offer in the person of Christ, so that we sacrifice ourselves with Him. “Do you love me?” the Lord will ask every day. If you do, then you will sacrifice every day, for sacrifice is the best translation of the word love.

As the priest used to say to the newly-married couple, years ago, “You are called to a life of sacrifice. Sacrifice is always difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy.” And that is what you will have in the person of Christ — how could it be otherwise? Jesus Christ is the living act of thanksgiving to the Father; He is the fulfillment of all joy, a joy that the world cannot give and cannot take away. With this marvelous sacramental grace of priesthood, that joy of Christ Himself becomes yours. That’s another marvelous gift that is yours — so that with it you might never give in to discouragement.

Jeremiah said, “Lord, I am too young,” and along the way both of you have said, “Lord, maybe for this, or that, or the other reason, I should think about something else.” It was normal for Jeremiah and it was normal for you. But now you’ve made your final and definitive commitment. And with that comes final and definitive joy, if you just leave yourselves open to that, if you cherish that and if you protect it. May it be so tonight. May it be so every blessed day, for the rest of your priestly lives.

Thank you for reading this. Please keep Fr. Chad and Fr. John in your prayers, as well as Deacon Jorge and Deacon Tim, whom, God willing, I will ordain this spring! Pray for me and for all of our priests as well, and know that you are in my prayers, too!

Praised be Jesus Christ!