Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homily for the First Mass of Father Boland

In the beginning, when all was darkness and chaos, the spirit of God descended upon the waters and brought forth light and life and God saw that it was good.

So too, made manifest by flames and a strong and driving wind, the Spirit descended upon the twelve that first Pentecost Sunday, that the Church might born.

And so yesterday….just twenty-eight hours ago, Christ our great High Priest, through the hands of our Bishop, consecrated our brother James, our Father James to be a sharer in his Priesthood.  You heard the prayer…he made you a a priest renewing deep within you the Spirit of holiness, that by your preaching, through the grace of the Holy Spirit the words of the Gospel might bear fruit in human hearts….that his people might be renewed in the waters of rebirth and nourished from your altar….that sinners might be reconciled and the sick raised up….that the full number of the nations, gathered together in Christ, be transformed into one people and made perfect in his Kingdom.

All through your hands Father Boland.  All through your hands.  Those hands into which the Bishop yesterday placed bread and wine which today you will offer for us, joining all the little sacrifices and crosses of our lives to that one perfect sacrifice offered on the altar of the cross, that with you we might imitate the mysteries you will celebrate for us and conform ourselves to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.

It is a miracle, dear brother, that God chooses such as you and me, but he does.  The same God who chose to live among us as a defenseless little baby in a manger, chooses such as us as the clay vessels of  his inestimable gift to the world.  

He chose you, who yesterday knelt before his Bishop and folded your hands between his palms, as if between the hands of Christ, and promised to give your life in obedience to Christ and to his Church.

It’s an act, by the way, which the world finds laughable and totally beyond belief.  To give up your own will, for the will of another?  Can’t you think for yourself?You’re bright.  Don’t you want to be success?  Follow him? Follow him to what?  To poverty?  To pain?  To sacrifice?  To the cross?

No wonder there’s a vocation shortage.  Sounds like we’re lacking a very good marketing strategy.

And if we were selling a commercial product, that would be ever so true.  But what Father Boland has given up his life for is not a product, but a person.  A man who hangs upon a cross.

The cross.  The place where there is no control nor desire for control, no decisions to be made, no problems to figure out or programs to plan, but only you and Christ and the cross and the people to whom he sends you.

For only God’s will matters, no matter what your head or your heart or your gut tell you.  It is God’s will and the will of his Church to which you totally give your life.

The last thing Maximilian Kolbe wanted to do was to starve to death at the bottom of a pit.  But it was God’s will.  The last thing Damian of Molakai wanted to do was to go work with lepers on an island half way across the world.  But it was God’s will.  

That’s why of all the promises a Priest makes, perhaps the most counter-cultural is the promise of obedience.  Which is why, perhaps it is also the most important.  For it says there is something greater than you here...a mystery of God’s love in which dying is more important than living, letting go more important than clinging on, surrender more important than control, and obedience more important than being right.  As the Lord Jesus hung upon the cross, in perfect obedience to the Father, he let go of everything, to his last breath in perfect fulfillment of God’s will. Conformed to that perfect obedience, the Priest is called to do the same.

So when the world looks at that man in black with the funny white collar who has given up striving for success, career, and family and even his own will in the name of God they will see not Jim Boland or Ron Falcoa or Steve Salocks or Jim Moroney.  They will see Christ.

And in the end, that’s what it’s all about.  

We’re here today because we love you, Father.  We love you as a son, as a brother, as a friend, and now, as a Priest.  

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 for us, 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