Homily of Archbishop Palmer-Buckle at 2018 Priestly Ordination
125th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC MISSION IN ACCRA ORDINATIONS TO THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD, Saturday, August 25, 2018.
- Sermon: “Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, these words of St. Paul to the Ephesians (1:3-4) fill my mind and heart as I praise and thank God for the gift of the Holy Priesthood itself and the Priesthood soon to be bestowed on these 18 deacons before us. Yes, we should bless God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because, in and through the gift of the Holy Priesthood, God in Christ blesses us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.
1.1: In today’s First Reading, God instructs Moses to take anointing oil and to consecrate the altar and everything that was to be used in his service; and then to anoint Aaron and his sons, consecrating them too. “Thus, by being anointed, shall they receive a perpetual priesthood throughout all future generations”.
Yes, today, by the prayers of consecration and the anointing with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, these sons of ours will be consecrated forever to God and to his service, and, in Christ Jesus they will become a blessing for all their lives to the Church and to all of humanity. Now, since God is holy, he requires of those for his special service like Aaron and his sons to be clothed in the holiness of a perpetual priesthood that finds fullness and fulfillment in his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy and Eternal High Priest (see Heb. 5:1-10).
Let us praise and give glory to God for these spiritual blessings in the heavenly places that he showers today upon us in our Archdiocese!
1.2: In today’s Gospel, we read that Jesus Christ “went up the mountain and called to himself those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons”.
St. Mark names the twelve apostles, and very interestingly we see that Jesus chose even Judas Iscariot, who would later turn traitor and betray him. God’s ways are truly strange and unfathomable!
According to the Gospels, Jesus was in the habit “of going up the mountain” to pray and to commune with God his Father. St. Luke emphatically states that Jesus “… departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk. 6:12).
And so, after communicating with God his Father, Jesus chose his twelve apostles, and in them, he also chose each and every one of his followers of old and of today.
My dear sons, today, Jesus Christ our Lord, is choosing you to be his priests in the same way. He has spent time in prayer to his Father and has chosen you. St. Mark, in his Gospel, gives the reason for which Jesus chose his apostles saying: “they were to be with him, so that he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons”.
My dearly beloved, Jesus Christ chooses us first and foremost to be with him, (literally in order to know him and to know everything that he has learnt from God his Father – see Jn. 15:15); and then we are to be sent forth (as his apostles) to preach his Good News, and to cast out evil in his name.
So, the priest is chosen not because he is the holiest or the best or the most intelligent, nothing extraordinary, but primarily to be with Jesus Christ; to know him intimately and so become the Sacrament of Christ in and to the world, going to preach Christ Jesus the Word of God and to rescue people from the power of evil and of the devil.
Yes, “Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4).
St. Paul in this passage says that God the Father “chose us in him (in Christ Jesus) even before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”. So we are all called and chosen to be holy and blameless before God always.
1.3: Our calling to holiness: This is the message of our Second Reading for today, being called to a life of holiness in Christ. St. Paul exhorts us all saying: “I…urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…”
Further on, he teaches us that “… grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift… he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ…”
Christ Jesus the Son of God is to be the measure and full stature of our holiness. In his Apostolic Exhortation “On the call to holiness in today’s world”, Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and be glad), Pope Francis also teaches us that holiness is not just our vocation, nor is it our mission, it is, in fact, our very nature, because the Lord our God who created us in his own image and likeness, is himself holy; and still more, God desires the sanctification all his sons and daughters (see GE 10; Lev. 11:44; 1 Pt. 1:16; and 1 Thes. 4:3).
My dearly beloved in Christ, please permit me to quote at length Pope Francis’ Gaudete et exsultate 14: “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious…We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.
“Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.
“Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”
According to our Holy Father, our calling to holiness is the fruit of our baptism saying in GE 15: “Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for you can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (see Gal. 5:22-23)”.
Another beautiful teaching from Pope Francis is that: “Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church” (GE 9). And emphatically, “At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him…” (GE 20).
“In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for ‘holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full’” (GE 21).
1.4: And now, my dear priests to-be, do not forget that holiness is first and foremost our nature; holiness is our calling; holiness is our mission. We are called to be saints, because “every saint is a mission,” teaches the Holy Father (GE 19). The Priesthood you will be invested with today is to be your path to fulfilling your call to holiness as enshrined in the questions you would have to answer and in the prayers that will be prayed for you soon.
From my own experience of 41 years as a priest and 25 years as a bishop, only the priest who is a true companion of Christ, constantly in his presence through prayer (devotions and the Breviary), through reading and meditating the Word of God, (literally sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ and listening to him with your heart and soul); only the priest who himself communes and communicates daily with Christ Jesus especially in the Holy Eucharist, and very regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation; only the priest who makes every effort to grow and mature to the full stature of Christ, he can truly be the Sacrament of Christ Jesus in the world, the Alter Christus. He it is who shares Christ with others, because as the saying in Latin goes: Nemo dat quod non habet! (No one gives what he/she does not have!)
This is your path to holiness my sons. My prayer for you and the prayer of all the faithful People of God gathered here today because of you, is that you will be holy priests so that you mirror Christ Jesus the Eternal High Priest to the world and witness to him by your very lives.
May your life be attractive to all you come into contact with! May Mary the Mother of all Priests always intercede for you so that you may become truly the Sacrament of her beloved Son Jesus Christ, for Mary loves all priests exceedingly well, since she sees in every priest her Son!
“O Almighty and Eternal God…increase the gifts you have given to our Church so that we…may grow in holiness of life and be truly ardent disciples of Your Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (from the 125th Anniversary Prayer).
Arise, Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Apostolic Administrator of Accra &
Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Coast.
- A few remarks at the end of the Ordinations:
- About the Pope’s Letter to the People of God… Pope Francis says that “If one member suffers, all suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). And so he is inviting us all “…as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit… Together…every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion…”
- Our Holy Father says: “To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command (see Mt. 17:21). This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse”.
- I hereby direct that we spend the whole month of September in prayer and penance for forgiveness and healing, and especially for the conversion and change among us priests and religious in the Church universal and in our Catholic Archdiocese of Accra too.
- I ask that we hold 72 hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from Thursday, September 13 through Friday, September 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to Saturday, September 15 – Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. I ask the Liturgical Commission to come up with modalities for the Triduum, and some guidelines for the whole month of September.
- My next big concern is the Holy Spirit Cathedral Restoration; please my dearly beloved in Christ, I would like to be able to raise the Gh Cedis 10 million we have estimated for the Restoration. So far we have been able to raise just about Gh Cedis 3.5 million. I need a further 6.5 million. The Holy Spirit Cathedral fully restored will be my greatest legacy I pray you help me to leave to this Archdiocese.
- Finally, please do not forget the 125th Anniversary Prayer and the Climax, which, God willing, comes off on Sunday, November 25, 2018, Solemnity of Jesus Christ the Universal King, at the Black Star Square.