Homily For Evening Of Adoration For Deacons Pratt And Pfister
Editor’s note: The night before Bishop Charles C. Thompson ordained Deacons John Pfister and Jerry Pratt Jr., Annunciation Parish in Evansville hosted an evening of Eucharistic Adoration for them at Christ the King Church. The Message is pleased to publish the homily from Annunciation Pastor Father Alex Zenthoefer, who also serves as Diocesan Director of Vocations.
In the concluding chapter of John’s Gospel, used for today’s Mass, Jesus poses that piercing question to Peter on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Having repeated the question three times to ensure that Peter really understands its significance, Jesus says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
This is not a commentary on your age, but a commentary on your vocation: what you are about to enter is a path full of joy and sorrow and hope and sacrifice, but it is a path that can only be walked if you have first responded to this question: Jerry, son of Jerry, and John, son of James, do you love Jesus Christ? There is no greater question that will determine the sincerity of your ministry other than this. Do you love Him? There is no question that will give you strength in the midst of difficult circumstances other than this. Do you love Him? There is no greater question that will provide depth and meaning and value to every joy and every moment of gladness other than this. Do you love Him? Priesthood does not make sense outside of this question. It loses its soul, and the priest Himself abandons the sacramentality of his ordination because he no longer points to Christ, but he points only to himself. And there is nothing that will divide and diminish the richness of the Church more than a priest who is self-referential. That is why you can never stop asking yourselves this question – for yourselves, for the sake of the people that you serve, for the sake of the Church throughout the world: Do you love Him?
But this is not just a question for them, it is a question for us and for all people who are asked to embrace men who are weak and imperfect yet called to conform their lives to the person of Jesus Christ in His priesthood. Do we love Jesus enough to embrace priests in their fragility, in the limitation of their humanity? Do we love Christ enough to comfort priests when they are sad, to encourage them when they are dejected, and to rejoice with them when they are surprisingly effective? Do we love Christ enough to see in the eyes of priests at least a desire to be holy and to be a gift to God’s people? Do we love Christ enough to sit through painful homilies, less-than-stellar liturgies and requests for Capital Campaigns? Can we see in the men that God has chosen to serve His people the face of Jesus Himself who desires to use these weak vessels to reveal Himself to a world that is broken and wounded and struggling? Because this is the vehicle that God has chosen. And tonight we sing with the Psalmist: “Praise the Lord for the Lord is good. Sing a psalm to his name for he is loving.” For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself and Israel for his own possession. God has chosen these men for Himself and God has chosen us to embrace them.
In my short 12 years as a priest I have not come across any words that better express what it means to be a good priest than these words of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, which he said to a group of newly ordained priests:
“Be human, live the truth of your humanity. Your humanity is not that which you do now; it is what God did in making you to be born in the womb of your mother, when you were little . . . and so now become once again little and simple, and cry because you need to cry, it's natural to cry, or be afraid because the problem is difficult and you feel the disproportion of your own effort. Be human, live your humanity as an aspiration, as a sensibility to problems, as a risk to confront, as a faithfulness to the urges in your soul, to those urges that God created in your soul from its very origin; and in this way according to your appeal -- reality will present itself to your eyes in a new way.”
Dear brothers, love Christ with all of your humanity. And dear people of God, love the men He has chosen to serve you.