Our brothers, Khoa and Gabriel, have been called to the Presbyteral Order. As we consider the position to which they are to be promoted in the Church, we know that God has made His entire people a royal priesthood in Jesus, the Christ.
Our High Priest, Jesus Christ, also chose some of His followers to carry out publicly in the Church a priestly ministry in His name on behalf of humanity. As Pope Francis reflected, “they were elected by the Lord Jesus, not to further their careers, but to offer this service.”
And so, they are here among us today because they have discerned the voice of the Shepherd calling to them and because they are willing to follow, not to be “lords” over the people, but to be in service to the people.
Today, we celebrate your willingness to serve, a service that places you at odds with the overriding sentiments of our society, a society which still has much to learn from the Lord. However, there is also the insidious temptation to place yourselves over and above others, the People of God, as though you are being ordained into some glorified caste.
That is not so!!
Sent to serve, you will involve yourselves now in the lives of the people entrusted to your care, not in some cold, clinical sense. Pope Francis again urges priests to “get your hands dirty.” When people approach you for spiritual help, you must enter into the complications of their lives. Again, the Holy Father says that, “priests cannot be afraid of being drawn into unclear and messy situations.” Khoa and Gabriel, you, too, must be unafraid to touch the lives of people.
“Mercy touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others, it gets personal,” Pope Francis tells us. “It does not approach ‘cases’ but ‘persons’ and their pain.”
“Mercy exceeds justice; it brings knowledge and compassion; it leads to involvement,” the pope continued. “By the dignity it brings, mercy raises up the one over whom another has stooped to bring help. The one who shows mercy and the one to whom mercy is shown become equals.”
Gabriel and Khoa, you have the energy and idealism of youth. Soon, people will call you “Father.” That is a wonderful expression of faith and of the spiritual bond that exists between priests and the Christian community. Do not let it feed your egos. Ordination does not make you an expert in catechesis, or liturgy or counseling. What we do today will not give you the wisdom of age and experience. Be humble, turn to others for help… and do it often.
Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God. Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and real love. Be joyful, joyful, with the joy of Christ’s service, even amid suffering, misunderstandings and your own sins. Keep your gaze ever fixed on the example of the Good Shepherd who did not come to be served but rather to serve. Do not be bureaucrats, but rather shepherds of the People of God.
Be humble in your relationships with your coworkers: your pastors, brother priests, the religious and laywomen and men, as well as in your relationships with your parishioners. Yes, be humble. This is not the false humility that is for show, but an attitude that courses through every fiber of your being.
Ordination will not raise you above others; it will put you on your knees, as was Jesus at the Last Supper, an act of self-giving for the life of all. It is in remembrance of Him that we are called to serve, and in His memory that we follow and do as He has charged us: offering our lives, also, in loving service of our brothers and sisters.
“Remember,” says Pope Francis, “that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God. And the Church is the custodian of the word of God. True humility places us at the service of the word of God, and not the other way around.”
Indeed, I have no fear for either of you, because I know that you have learned all of this from your parents and families. You were schooled in humility and service in your homes, where you were educated in the ways of family love, where you learned how to be the young men that you are today. And so, on behalf of the whole Church and our Diocese, I thank your families for the gift that each one of you is for us today.
I also offer my gratitude to the parishes where you first heard the call of the Lord, and where your vocations matured. Both Holy Korean Martyrs Parish and Saint Patrick, now Our Lady of La Vang Parish, have a rich history of sending young men to the seminary in preparation for service as priests for our local Church. Indeed, many of our most recently ordained and youngest priests are either from the Vietnamese or Korean communities.
Finally, I want in a public way to thank the Sulpician Fathers and Saint Patrick’s Seminary and University for your part in these men’s preparation for priestly ministry. I also want to thank you for helping to form over the years so many of the priests here in San Jose and throughout the region. We are truly indebted to you.
May the Lord watch over and continue to bless us, now and always.