Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Recently, Pope Benedict announced that the Church will celebrate a special "Year of the Priest" beginning June 19, which is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Some years ago, Pope John Paul II initiated a Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests that is celebrated on or near the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Both Popes saw a strong connection between Priesthood and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Priests are encouraged to drink deeply from the well-springs of salvation that pour from the Heart of Christ Jesus-from Baptism and the Eucharist-and to share these riches with the people entrusted to their ministerial care.
The Holy Father also said that during this Year of the Priest, he intends to proclaim St. John Marie Vianney the patron of all priests. In this way he will stress the ideal model that the Cure of Ars offers to all priests-not just the diocesan clergy or parish priests-and the spiritual bounty to which priests have access, in adoring the Lord Jesus in Blessed Sacrament and by reconciling penitents in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as this saintly priest did.
We are anticipating this special year devoted to the priesthood with the ordination today of a member of our Church of Ottawa, Jonathan Scott Blake.
Our prayer is that his example of self-sacrificing love in taking on this ministry may inspire other men in our Archdiocese to offer themselves for service to God's people in the priesthood.
The example of Saint Athanasius, whom the church commemorates today as a teacher of the church for his zeal in holding to the Church's belief in the divinity of Jesus against Arius who held he was a mere man, and the scriptural readings offer us rich material for our reflection and prayer as hands are laid on our ordinand by the attending priests and me.
The readings from the Acts of the Apostles in this Easter Season show how the ministry that Jesus started as he went around Galilee and the nearby regions doing good, preaching and healing, finds its extension in the ministry of the apostles.
Jesus' healing of a paralytic whose sins he pronounced forgiven and the raising up of Jairus' daughter with the words, "Talitha qum [which means "little girl, arise"] are echoed in Peter's healing of the paralyzed Aeneas bedridden for eight years and the restoration to life of Dorcas, with the words "Tabitha [her other name], get up!"
Peter's acts of healing caused many to believe in the Lord. The accounts of the early church's flourishing in Acts fills us with joy and with the challenge to carry out in our day the proclamation of the Good News, embodying the Lord's power to heal and renew. Our brother Jonathan, like his brother priests, will carry on Jesus' and the apostles' healing ministry particularly through the anointing of the sick and the sacrament of reconciliation.
The task of evangelizing our world belongs to the whole people of God--the one body of Christ spoken of by St. Paul in the second reading from Colossians--guided and encouraged by those called to the ministerial priesthood. With his infectious enthusiasm for youth, Jonathan should be right at home in working with the Centre 101, CCO, NET-Canada, Famille Marie-Jeunesse, and ready to be a partner and leader in Montée Jeunesse /Youth Summit of 2010.
From his personal vocational journey, Jonathan realizes that the power of his ministry to touch people's lives derives from the proclamation of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This truth held true in Sept-Îles, where Jonathan was born; in Moncton where he grew up; as well as in Halifax, Pittsburgh and Ottawa, where he studied and worked in information technology and computer programming. It is a truth that has deepened latterly in Toronto, where he studied philosophy and theology, struggled to integrate these into his life and prayer, and was helped by the seminary staff and student body to dare to say "Yes" to the call to be a priest, to live as an alter Christus, another Christ.
Archbishop Gervais and Father Kabangu, members of a prayer group at this cathedral parish, along with parishioners of St. Joseph Parish in Orleans during his internship and many others in the Archdiocese-priests, religious and lay, including many of the youth-all had an important role to play in affirming Jonathan's gifts of generous service. I thank them all and you who are here today for helping shape this priest of Jesus Christ.
A while ago, I heard the family of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan say that their son and brother had been zealous to play his part in creating a better world over there and even to lay down his life in this cause. This is not something easy to say when many Canadians consider the mission futile or do not see it as in any way preventing evil and creating good. But he did. And his family knew it, and proudly said it on his behalf.
We need many young men like that person to lay down their lives in a noble cause, in service to God's people here in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. That is why I am asking all our people from now on to pray fervently for men to step up as Jonathan has and rejoice in a vocation to give their lives in service.
I ask you not only to pray but also to encourage those who feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit's call to priesthood yet feel the pull of other attractions. Let us pray for many more holy and self-sacrificing priests for the church of tomorrow.
The theme of the specially designated Year of the Priest is: The Faithfulness of Christ; the Faithfulness of the Priest.
Jonathan, my brother you may count on Jesus' promise to be faithful to you as he was to his disciples.
In today's gospel, Jesus told the crowds who came to him in the synagogue of Capernaum the hard truth that "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you". Many balked at these words and walked away.
Jesus went on to say that "the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life". Accepting his teaching and abiding by it, participating in the Eucharist the great act of the church's thanksgiving to God, herein lies the path for the Christian disciple to be spirit-filled and full of life. This is what we all want the most, isn't it?
Faced with the defection of so many, Jesus asked his disciples whether they too would leave him. We have Peter's answer on behalf of the others that there was nowhere to go and no one to whom they could go because they had discovered, "You have the words of everlasting life".
A renowned spiritual writer has paraphrased Peter's impulsive answer this way, "Master, we don't understand what you say either, but if we go away from you, where will we go? You alone have the words that explain life. It's impossible to find anyone like you. If I can't believe in you, I can't believe my own eyes, I can't believe in anything anymore… Only you, only you explain everything, make us see the connections of everything, and you make life great, intense, useful and you give us a glimpse of eternity" (Luigi Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way? Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2008, p.38)
Christ, the faithful one, drew out of his disciples their confession of faith in him. And the apostles-though they wavered during the Passion-let him restore them to joy and peace after his resurrection. And from then on, they were faithful to him, as we priests now are called to be faithful to Christ.
And so we hope and pray that the relationship Christ has begun with and in Jonathan will hold true in every place where his future ministry will lead him, here at Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica for the months of June and July and in his first nomination which will begin August 1st.
On this First Saturday of the Marian Month of May, we pray, Jonathan, that Mary-Mother of Priests-may watch over you with her maternal gaze and shelter you in her mantle:
"May it please Our Lady to intercede for us sinners with her Son and Lord to obtain for us the grace that, in conjunction with our own efforts, we may change from weak and sad individuals to strong and happy ones for the glory of God" (from a letter of Ignatius Loyola, 1525).