Homily — Ordination to the Priesthood
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
August 8, 2020
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially you, my dear brothers who are about to be ordained,
I want to welcome all of you here today, and I want to welcome all of you who are joining us through the Internet.
This is a beautiful day in the life of the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This is a unique celebration — the first time we’ve ever celebrated an ordination outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The priesthood is so important, not only for the Church, but also for the whole world. Every priest is a sign of God’s love, a sign that he is still working in the world, still carrying out his plan of redemption.
Today, our Lord is sending these men out to be messengers of his merciful love, stewards of his holy mysteries, and teachers of the truth about God and the sanctity and dignity of the human person.
Dear Filiberto, Daniel, Michael, Jonathan, Justin, Thomas, Manuel and Louie: Jesus is speaking to each one of you today, personally, in the Gospel that we just heard.
Jesus says to you: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”
And your ordination today is historic.
My brothers, you are the first priests of the pandemic generation. And you will play an important role in the Church’s healing and rebuilding of our society in the wake of this deadly disease that has swept away so many of our certainties and securities.
The Church in this moment is called to go out to the places where people are hurting and suffering, the places that Pope Francis calls the “existential peripheries.”
The words of the prophet that we hear in today’s first reading speak to your particular mission as priests:
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted. … to comfort all who mourn.
Brothers, in a special way, you must bring hope and help to restore people’s trust in the love of God and his mercy. And my the way we do that, is by the way we love.
Jesus tells us today in the Gospel: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
A priest should always be transparent. People should be able to “see right through you,” and through you, see the love of Christ.
Brothers, before all else, you must “be Jesus” for your people. Not only when you proclaim his Word, or celebrate the sacred mysteries at the altar. But in all things.
Speak of his love, share his wisdom and knowledge. Tell the stories of his life. Try to be a living example of his tender mercy.
Brothers, permit me to offer just two brief words of advice as we prepare to confer this holy sacrament upon you.
First, always seek the heart of Christ. Our Lord’s heart is gentle and humble. Ask him to make your hearts humble and gentle, too.
Humility is the secret strength of the priestly ministry.
Yes, it is true, the priest has a rare and noble duty in the family of God. As we heard in today’s second reading, the priest is set apart to be our “representative before God.”
But that doesn’t mean that the priest is superior to those he serves. Every priest is a sinner called to holiness, just like every other baptized believer.
So, open your heart to the heart of Jesus, the heart that was pierced on the Cross out of love for all humanity. Love with the heart of Jesus and carry out your daily ministry in quiet acts of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
One more word of advice: Love the Holy Mass, my brothers! Make the celebration of the Eucharist the center of each day. Live for the Mass, and live from the Mass!
At the altar, you are truly Christ, standing in persona Christi. Never take this for granted! Always do holy things in a holy way, knowing that in your hands you hold the bread of eternal life!
Brothers, today our Lord is calling you to friendship — “I have called you friends,” he says. What a beautiful and rare gift.
Give him everything you have, all that you are. All your thoughts and actions, your sacrifices and sufferings. Your voice, your hands, your heart.
Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for our newly ordained — and for all our priests in this difficult time. Let’s also pray for vocations to the priesthood, that many more men will hear our Lord’s call to follow him and to be his friends.
Brothers, my personal prayer is that you stay close always to our Blessed Mother Mary. Call on her as a child, love her as your mother. I ask her intercession now for your priesthood. Through Mary, may you draw closer to her Son and become ever more like him.
[i] Readings: Isa. 61:1–3; Ps. 110:1–4; Heb. 5:1–10; John 15:9–17.