Homily for the Ordination of Patrick Burke, Killererin Church
Sunday, June 11th, 2006
The Ordination of a Priest only makes sense in the broader context of the relationship of a parish, community, or a people with God. The more we discover about God, the greater becomes the mystery of his presence and love. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. From our earliest schools days we have learned to speak of the mystery in the context of the Trinity. Mystery means that we can never say the final word about God; there is always more to discover, there is always more to share, there is always more to experience. In that sense the mystery of God invites us never to abandon the endless task of growing to understand the power behind the world in which live, and each year Trinity Sunday calls us to reflect on the life of God.
The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy underlines the uniqueness of the God in whom we believe. This is the God who has chosen to draw close to his people. He singles them out for special attention and love, with signs and wonders, with mighty hand and outstretched arm. This God journeys with us in our history and he expects the way of life from us. He has given us directions which, if we follow them, will contribute to our happiness and security.
Against that background of God’s choice and his selection of a people, we can understand the way in which God chooses individuals, and in our case today Patrick Burke, son of Paddy and Mary Ellen Burke from the Parish of Killererin, to follow him as a priest and to serve the people of God in the Archdiocese of Tuam. There is a specific note in God’s selection; it is for a particular purpose and God’s choice places certain responsibilities on the person who is chosen.
The second reading today spells out the relationship with God. We are not slaves living in fear, we are children of God, heirs to God’s kingdom. We have been granted the privilege of inheriting the glory of God. We have been given the right to belong. We can move with the ease of sons and daughters who have a share in God’s kingdom. This will be the context in which Pat will exercise his priestly ministry, reminding those among whom he ministers of their special dignity, their ability to cope with suffering and trials because they have already been accepted by God, are close and dear to him. Pat’s priesthood will continue to remind them of that fact, and he will have the responsibility to keep reminding them of that whether in times of prosperity or poverty. To do so however he himself will have to be utterly convinced of the God who has chosen him and to whom he relates each day in prayer and faith.
Today’s gospel reading forms a bridge between Christ and the Church. You will notice themes of faith and doubt, baptism and human behaviour. The risen Lord sends out the disciples to continue his mission. Today Patrick Burke is chosen for that purpose. In this gospel Matthew gives us an insight into discipleship, whether then or now. Believers will understandably be caught between adoration and doubt. Jesus bridges the distance by drawing near by speaking words of comfort and commission. The words of Jesus divide into three key statements – focusing on a past event, the present command and the future promise. By his death and resurrection Jesus has received all authority in heaven and on earth from the Father. This enables him to initiate a mission to all peoples. It is in this context that we situate what is happening today as God chooses a native son, places his spirit upon him and sends him out to serve God’s people. Pat will have responsibility for making disciples for Jesus Christ, that is, enabling them to follow Him, to put into practice his teaching by proclaiming him as the Lord of all.
The second part of today’s gospel explains how one moves from the position of unbeliever to that of disciple: that is baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As he administers the sacraments, and particularly that of baptism Pat will be drawing new people into the family of God and enabling them to avail of the gifts and graces that God has allotted to his family. Pat will have a responsibility for teaching the commands of Jesus. Much of his ministry will be concerned with teaching. He will teach in many ways and in particular by the example of his life as one who has dedicated himself to following Christ.
It is interesting that the final section of today’s gospel deals with the future and with promise. Jesus is not an absentee landlord. He has promised to be with us to the end of time. Time and again in his ministry Pat will be confronted with anti-God forces in the world. There will be times when he could be forgiven for getting the impression that those anti-God forces are threatening to swamp belief in the one true God. At times like this he will have to return and remind himself of the parting promise of Jesus in today’s gospel – I am with you always to the end of time. Today priests recognise the powerful presence of God in a very special way among the people that they serve. Indeed the last few months have highlighted for priests the powerful support that is forthcoming in their local church area from men and women like yourselves.
The preparations made by the people of this parish for Pat’s ordination today are testimony to the support, encouragement and loyalty which people have for priests and for what priesthood represents.
Each of you has made your particular contribution to bringing Pat to the altar for ordination this afternoon. This is something for which he will always be indebted to you and as a result you will form part of his prayer of thanksgiving in every Mass that he celebrates throughout his priesthood. In turn you will be called upon to continue to support Pat and all the priests whom you know by your prayers, support and encouragement.
I congratulate Pat on this his Ordination Day, I thank his parents, Paddy and Mary Ellen, and the family, Canon Kieran Waldron and the people of Killererin for providing a priest for the diocese.
I join with Archbishop Cassidy, with the people, religious and priests in welcoming Pat as a priest among us.