Archbishop Bernard’s homily:
In the extraordinary circumstances of this year the joy that we feel today at the Ordination of two priests to serve the people of the Archdiocese is heightened. When we are surrounded by so much uncertainty and concern because of the coronavirus pandemic we are given a sure sign of God’s loving presence and provident care in the readiness of Clive and Alex to dedicate their lives to serve the needs of others as priests.
The Ordination Rite makes us reflect on our Lord’s gift of the priesthood to the Church and we re-commit ourselves to pray and work for vocations to the priesthood. Today’s ordination is the clearest answer that God could give to our prayers for priestly vocations. It comes in the shape of two men who have been discerning our Lord’s call for many years, along the highways and the byways of their lives.
Clive and Alex, your ordination is a moment of thanksgiving for the Archdiocese, a moment when our mission to the people whom we are called to serve is strengthened by the gift of your ministry as priests. Today we are all witnesses to the lasting significance of this sacramental moment for the Church. For both of you this is a deeply personal experience, an answer to your own prayers and the fruit of your commitment to serve our Lord and his Church in a new and dedicated way.
But what happens to you today is not only for your benefit. Above all you are gifted with the office of the priesthood to equip you to imitate our Lord and to enable him to reach his people through your service. You have set St Matthew’s Gospel at the heart of today’s liturgy so that we have been drawn into the compassionate heart of the Lord himself. His response, feeling sorry for the people because they were harassed and dejected, reflects the way that you will serve as his priests, shepherding his flock.
The Church needs priests who are prepared to enter into the world, with all the risks that that entails, for our priesthood to be effective and fruitful for others. Your preaching and your pastoral ministry should never distance you from the world, but neither should you be afraid of drawing upon the experiences and the spiritual insights God has blessed you with so that your preaching and ministry will ring true and touch people’s lives.
The Word of God crossed the threshold between heaven and earth so that we can do the same. Whenever you celebrate Mass you open the doorway that enables us to glimpse the Kingdom of God and to live by its values here in the world. Our Lord was prepared whenever necessary to cross the threshold of convention in order to reach those in need. He was mindful of people’s experiences and expectations – but he was never driven or unduly influenced by the way of the world. What people truly need and what they might sometimes expect from your priestly ministry will not always be the same thing. May the Sacrament you receive today equip you with the grace to discern how best to respond to the expectations and needs of those you will be sent to serve.
In a few moments you will be asked to promise “obedience…to me and my successors.” The attitude of obedience is precious to everyone who is ordained, whether bishop, priest or deacon. It enables him to listen for pointers of God’s will in his life and in the lives of others. In your priestly ministry listen obediently to the Word of God in the scriptures and in prayer, and tune your ear to the voice of God through those who direct and guide you. In this way you can learn to see beyond the surface of things to the deeper meaning that lies within them and so to meet people’s deepest needs as priests of Jesus Christ.
In your preaching, in celebrating the sacraments and in your pastoral availability you are also called to be compassionate friends to your parishioners as well as to the stranger and the new-comer. As a priest you will feel drawn to some people more than others – perhaps those who share your outlook on life or your sense of the Church’s mission. Try to recognise those natural likes and dislikes so that you can be a compassionate friend to all. This will help you to be a servant of unity within your parish. Remember that as a priest you will have to sacrifice some of your own preferences to remain faithful to your calling.
Clive and Alex, you have been called from different backgrounds and experiences to share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.
For Clive: this journey, with the loving support of Sarah and your children, has led you through serving the holy people of God as a priest in the Church of England through your many years of Christian leadership at the Oratory School in Woodcote, to this moment of personal and ecclesial fulfilment. I am grateful that the people of Charlbury and Chipping Norton will be the first beneficiaries of this as you continue to assist Fr Tony Joyce.
For Alex: from the midst of the secular world, with the understanding of your parents and family, you have been led step by step into full communion with the Catholic Church, deepening your commitment to Christ as a member of the parish community at Burton-on-Trent and in due course offering yourself in service to the Archdiocese. The people of Acocks Green here in Birmingham will now benefit from your energy and enthusiasm alongside Fr Jonathan Veasey.
You have both come to appreciate what it means to uproot yourselves and to serve where the Lord is sending you. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into this harvest. In your Ordination today we see an answer to our prayer, knowing that you will now be sharing with others the harvest that you reap in the food of the Eucharist.
In a beautiful meditation on the power of the Eucharist during the pandemic Cardinal Sarah quotes the prayer for the dedication of an altar. As you stand at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist may this prayer inspire your priestly ministry for many years to come.
Here may the flood of divine grace overwhelm human offenses, so that your children, Father, being dead to sin, may be reborn to heavenly life.
Here may the joyful offering of praise resound, with human voices joined to the song of angels, and unceasing prayer rise up to you for the salvation of the world.
Here may the poor find mercy, the oppressed attain true freedom, and all people be clothed with the dignity of your children, until they come exultant to the Jerusalem which is above.