Homily of Archbishop Carlson - for Ordination of Bishop Rice

The following homily was given by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson during the Mass of Episcopal Ordination for Bishop Edward M. Rice:

His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, My brother bishops and priests, permanent deacons and religious, members of the Rice family, Ecumenical and Civic dignitaries, friends all:

The Gospel we've just heard speaks of Jesus' compassion and love: "At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd."

Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep. And, as we read in Pastores Gregis, the Synodal Document on BIshops, the image of the Good Shepherd represents the image of the bishop in relationship to the people. (PG, par. 1) In fact, Pastores Gregis begins with a prayer, taken from the rite of the Ordination of a Bishop, highlighting this very point.

"Grant O Father, knower of all hearts, that this your servant, whom you have chosen for the office of bishop, may shepherd your holy flock. May he fulfill before you without reproach the ministry of High Priesthood."

My brother, Jesus Christ himself, Good Shepherd and high Priest, provides the model of your relationship to the people. As you are ordained today, remember the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, that no one can be considered a pastor or shepherd "nisi efficiatur unum cum Christo" – unless he has been made one with Christ.

The spirituality of the bishop who is united with Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the same as that of the Galilean fisherman who became the first Pope and the leader of the Church. Remember Jesus' dialogue with Peter: "Simon Peter, do you love me? Tend my lambs, feed my sheep."

Bishop Rice, you are called to become a shepherd and a guide for the flock following the Lord's command "...the gift you have received give as a gift." (Matthew 10:8)

In addition to being made one with Christ the Good shepherd, you must also be made one with Christ's spousal love for the Church. As Pope John Paul II said, in Pastores Dabo Vobis, a document that reflects on the life of priests, "In his spiritual life... [the priest] is called to live out Christ's spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest's life [and your new life as a bishop] ought to radiate this spousal character which demands he be a witness to Christ's spousal love, and thus be capable of loving people with a heart which is new, generous and pure, with genuine self-detachment, [and] with full, constant and faithful dedication."

Your spousal faithfulness to the Church, united with Christ's, can be a model of spousal faithfulness for husbands and wives. Your generous and pure self-giving to the Church, in union with Christ's spousal giving, can inspire the generosity of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

Your laying down your life in slefless detachment for the church, in union with Christ's self-sacrifice, can encourage husbands and wives to take up their crosses and lay down their lives for each other and for their children.

In addition to being made one with Christ's spousal love, you are called to be made one with Christ's own revelation of the Father — and this means two things:

First, you are called to show the love of the Father. You are called to show the love of the Father because that is what Jesus himself did. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that it is the Father who has sent His Son to redeem those under the law (Galatians 4:4). It is God who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18). The mission of the Son is the great proof, for Paul, of the love of the Father for all people. "God proves his love for us by the fact that Christ died for us when we were still sinners" (Romans 5:8; cf. 8:31). In Christ we encounter that same love. If you take care to guard your unity with Christ the people will follow!

Second, besides showing the love of the Father, you are called to be a SPIRITUAL FATHER. You are called to be a spiritual father because, in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch: "The Father is like an invisible bishop, the bishop of all. Every bishop, therefore, stands in the place of the Father of Jesus Christ" (PG, par. 7.2).

As a spiritual father, pray to be filled with great love for all in the Archdiocese and especially priests. Through your love and witness you support priests as they are transformed by the grace of holy orders into a communion of pastoral charity that unites them one to another and with you as bishop. The scripture that comes to mind is: "No longer do I call you servants but friends." This was Jesus' relationship to his Apostles; it must be our relationship to the priests.

As bishop, offer priests the gift of "attentive listening" (PG, par. 13) anchored in your own spiritual journey. Invite them to open themselves to the Father's love for them — just as Jesus did for the Apostles. Share your own experience of the Father's love, just as Jesus did for the Apostles. Your concern, as bishop, is to help priests develop "awakened hearts"—hearts that yearn for and can receive the love of the Father (PDF, par. 12)—and therefore hearts that can lead others to yearn for and receive the love of the Father.

In this, too, you are called simply to be one with Jesus Christ — one with Him in relation with the Apostles.

In your priestly ministry you have manifested on many occasions your concern for vocations and the formation of seminarians. Now, as bishop, you must also be concerned for the ongoing formation of individual priests and the ongoing formation of the Presbytery. You will want to foster unity among priests and always invite them to a serious commitment to grow in holiness.

To do all of this, to do ANY of it, our lives—your life, and my life—must be deeply rooted in prayer. It is a question of our very existence as bishops, both in the actual call and in our mission in the Church, which manifests itself in an asceticism of selfless availability. Remember always John 15:5—"Apart from me you can do nothing."

St. Paul was a preacher, apostle and a teacher. He was willing to suffer anything for the conversion of the people he served; he was willing to die and rise in Christ, so that others could be made one with Christ. May you be like saint Paul: a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher, willing to die and rise in Christ so that people become one with Him. As you become one with Christ—nisi efficiatur unum cum Christo—you will understand more and more to lead all those you serve to Christ.

May the patron saints of the Archdiocese interced for you. May you have the courage and sense of justice of St. Louis, the love for the poor and holiness of St. Vincent de Paul, and the commitment to education and missions of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

And, above all, may the Blessed Mother—she who was made one with Christ in a most intimate way—intercede for you, that you may always say "yes" to union with Christ from the depths of your soul.

Amen.


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