“When a son of the soil reach to this place, it is just pure joy.” So said Archbishop Jason Gordon to applause from the St Anthony’s RC Church, Point Fortin congregation gathered to witness history, as one of its own, Deacon Royce Thomas was ordained priest for the Baltimore Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) Saturday, August 13.
In his homily, the Archbishop indicated that for the Anointing of Hands, he will take holy chrism (the same oil used at Baptisms, Confirmations and Ordinations as a bishop) and anoint the newly ordained priest’s hands “lavishly”. He added, “there’s no stingy anointing today because I want a lavish outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon you.”
A bishop anoints with holy chrism, but it is God who anoints with the Holy Spirit. A community may call forth a man to be a priest, but it is God’s Holy Spirit that transforms him into the priest of Jesus Christ, the Archbishop underscored.
“The Spirit poured upon the prophet and upon Jesus sends to mission another dimension of priesthood. You’re not a priest for yourself. And as Isaiah [61:1–3] says, the Spirit anoints to proclaim Good News to the poor,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon then reminded the deacon that his life has to bring Good News to the poor, not merely by his words, but his actions.
“…you have to see the people on the margins of society and every society where you are called to work and every apostolate that you are entrusted to…. you have to not only proclaim but become Good News to them.”
This, Archbishop Gordon asserted is not an “optional extra” of the priesthood. Nor is it something “we do when we feel to.” It is, rather, something “integral” to the mission of Jesus Christ Himself. The question of ‘How am I bringing the Good News to the poor’ is one that every priest must ask himself.
Archbishop Gordon opined that the message of Isaiah to the downtrodden people is a message to a broken humanity in the 21st century. “I believe we are in a Babylonian captivity right here where we are. The value systems are no longer Christian values. The way that we see the world is no longer Christian and we are held captive right here and it is right here we must proclaim this Good News,” he said.
According to the Archbishop, 60 years ago, it was “obvious” what a priest was, who he was, and why he was revered. He reminded the deacon he ought to have an “exemplary character” for others to truly understand the true dignity of the priesthood.
The Archbishop explained that the Second Reading (Heb 5:1–10) gives four understandings of the priesthood from the Old Testament. The priest is called from the people (family) to be set aside to be a priest; he is called by God; he acts as a “mediator” or instrument of God on behalf of the people; and he offers gifts and sacrifices to God.
Archbishop Gordon asserted that the priesthood today has to be efficacious, and an anointed priesthood.
How do we get to this priesthood? Responding to his own question, the Archbishop said the answer lies in the second part of the Second Reading when Jesus offered prayers and supplication with loud cries and tears to the Father.
He explained, “By His giving of Himself, He reverses the ancient ‘no’, replaces it with a ‘yes’ and because He exists before time and will exist after time, that single sacrifice of Jesus Christ wipes out all karma, past, present and future…. And through that sacrifice of Christ, His prayer and His offering of His Body and His Blood, we have been redeemed, and out of that redemption, He calls forth a new priesthood to be ministers of that redemption bringing Good News to the poor, liberty to the captives and setting the people free.”
Commenting on Deacon Thomas’ choice of Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 40 ‘Here I am’, the Archbishop beseeched the deacon to make this the mantra of his heart. He reminded that daily working to surrender his will to God’s, with sacrifice of prayer on the altar will allow a transformation within himself and the people he is called to serve.
Archbishop Gordon further implored the deacon to remain in God’s love. Love, the Archbishop observed, is something that is in short supply in the Church today. “People just not feeling the love. We had a synod report and the synthesis says that the one thing that runs right through like a golden thread is the people of God not feeling the love from us,” he said.
The Archbishop told the deacon if he allows the Holy Spirit and its anointing upon him for the transformation that God desires to make him a holy priest, then the love will flow.
The ordination ceremony included greetings from Fr Paul Borowski CSsR Provincial Superior of the Baltimore province.
In a brief vote of thanks, Fr Thomas thanked God for placing the right people at every stage of his life. He said it is through the work, energy, time and patience of family and confreres “that I stand here today.”
By Kaelanne Jordan