Posted on 17. Feb, 2016 in Carousel
Malachy Gallagher (Diocese of Derry) and Bill O’Shaughnessy (Archdiocese of Dublin), seminarians of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, were admitted to Candidacy for Ordination to Diaconate and Priesthood by Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, Secretary for Seminaries of the Congregation for the Clergy on 17th February 2016 at Mass in the College Chapel. The two Candidates will be ordained to the Diaconate on Easter Tuesday, 29th March 2016.
The following is the homily preached by Archbishop Patrón Wong:
I would like to begin by thanking Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll, the Rector, along with his colleagues on the staff of the College, Fr George (Hayes), Fr Hugh (Clifford) and Fr Tom (Norris), for the kind invitation to preside at this Holy Mass and the rite of admission to candidacy of Malachy and Bill. I am pleased to have this opportunity to return to the Pontifical Irish College and to mark this moment in the life of the seminary community with you.
Reading the Gospel, we might have expected that the Church would have proposed, in the first reading, the account of Jonah being expelled from the belly of the whale. This is the sign of the resurrection of which Christ speaks. Instead, we meet Jonah just as he finds himself on dry land once more, when the word of the Lord is addressed to him for the second time, asking him to call the people of Nin’eveh to repentance. And he set out, we are told, “in obedience to the word of the Lord”.
Christ made clear to his listeners that the sign of Jonah was the sign of their times, although they would only understand this afterwards. In fact, he remains always the living sign of the kairos in which we continue to live. “This is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation”, as we heard St. Paul remind us on Ash Wednesday (2Cor 6:2). The Risen Christ is the living sign of all times and seasons.
Since the resurrection is not an idea, nor even merely an event, but the living reality of a person whom we encounter, Christ addresses himself to each one of us in each generation; and he addresses each generation through us. His death and resurrection questions each new generation; and this he does through us, his ambassadors. Our message, like that of Jonah, belongs to Christ: “be reconciled to God” (2Cor 5:20).
We can notice a similarity between Jonah and the apostles: they fled from their calling. They fled from the fear of confronting the people of their own time with the word. Overwhelmed by their own insignificance and smallness, they were filled with fear. It was the encounter with the living God that took this away.
God, of course, understands our smallness, and chooses us precisely for that reason. The changing of hearts is not our doing, but the work of God. He sends each of his messengers at just the time they are needed, where they are needed, to whom they are needed. Today, for your generation, for your times, in your land, you are those men. He has sought you out, pursued you, given you signs of his concern for you, reassured you, and brought you to this day.
Each of you has been attentive to the word of the Lord for many years, in the changing circumstances of your lives. You have discerned the signs of the times, the signs of salvation time, in your own lives and generation. You have encountered the sign of Jonah and have come to know the crucified and risen Christ. You are now called to stop and consider well what the journey has brought you so far, before you move on.
In this, Jonah has another lesson for us. He too had to experience death and resurrection, as it were, before the word came to him a second time. Likewise the apostles: they had to experience Christ in his death and resurrection before he “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk 24: 45). This encounter with the person of Christ in his life, death and resurrection, an encounter that begins mystically by our baptism, must be made real, it must be given flesh. Like the apostles, when we have encountered the crucified and risen Christ we can experience both joy and doubt. But the man who has known Christ will be captivated by his presence enough to touch his wounds, which are all around us today. Pope Francis exhorts us continually, as you know, to touch the flesh of Christ, to encounter him in his suffering children. Our encounter with the crucified and risen Christ certainly involves the mystical encounter of the Spirit in prayer and sacramental life; but it is always an encounter with Christ incarnate, crucified and risen: we meet Christ in the flesh: – in the Eucharist, in his body the Church, and in the flesh of all humanity made in his image and likeness and which he has taken to himself.
You are asked if you can be, in the words of today’s rite, “men of discernment”, who recognise and can understand God’s signs, which daily reveal His will for your own generation. How much we need to bring our brothers and sisters to meet and know Christ in a concrete and real way. Hearts are waiting for relief. Lives that are broken by so much confusion are awaiting healing and light. A generation confident of its own lights is casting many into the shadows: it is a culture of waste, as Pope Francis repeats so often, discarding those who do not measure up, those who do not conform to consumption, those we cannot consume.
We can wonder at what difference our word might make, as Jonah did. But it is God’s word that saves; we must be merely its obedient servants. His word is living and true. It will not return to him empty without achieving what it was sent to do (cf. Is 55: 11). Christ is irresistible to true hearts in every generation. As Pope Saint John Paul put it famously: each generation is a new continent to be won for Christ. Or to recall the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman: heart speaks unto heart.
So, Malachy and Bill, you must not be afraid. The ground you will be sent to till is not barren; it is full of potential, it is, even now, awaiting the seed of the word that will be sown by your lives and ministry in the near future. Today, the Church confirms you in your discernment, encourages you to go on, and it begins to prepare you for that day when you will be conformed to Christ as his messengers who go forth in obedience to the his word.
+ Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong
Archbishop – Bishop emeritus of Papantla
Secretary for Seminaries