Not that we ever doubted it, but the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis got to see proof on Saturday that Jesus is someone who really does keep promises.
I’m thinking about promises like those we’ve heard for the past several days at Mass, taken from the ‘Farewell Discourse’ (the 15th and 16th chapters of the Gospel of John), in which Jesus assures the disciples that he won’t abandon us.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Sure enough: On Saturday, we gratefully welcomed the next wave of reinforcements, as six new priests were ordained for our archdiocese. One of the coolest parts of the Rite of Ordination comes when ‘all the priests who are present’ prayerfully lay hands on the heads of the ordinandi. It’s cool because, as a rule, there are a LOT of priests present – a hundred or more (by my guesstimate) this past Saturday.
The ‘Laying on of Hands’ took a long time to accomplish…as the procession of priests filed by each of the six ordinandi. And that gave me lots of time to happily reflect on just how well Jesus’ promise to us has been kept; how through the centuries we have been given an unbroken succession of advocates and ministers to testify about Christ’s presence among us. Believe me: It really drives the point home when you see the Cathedral Basilica’s (very large) sanctuary filled with priests – a blessed bounty of both new and experienced servants of God to reassure us that we never have to walk the journey alone.
It was a special joy to be there Saturday, because one of the six (Rev. Andrew Burkemper) hails from my own parish – he’s someone I’ve known virtually his entire life. I know his parents and sisters, too, and I know the incredible blessing they all have been for our community over the years. So I am able to confirm that while Father Drew is now set apart for priestly work, in a very real sense the entire family listens to – and lives out – one of the most compelling promises that Jesus makes in the Farewell Discourse:
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…
Without question, the wonderful fruit we see bursting forth in the six newly ordained gives us good reason to celebrate. And we celebrate not only their lives, it seems to me, but also the lives of the families and communities that nurtured them – providing a fertile soil in which the Word could take root and grow.
Jesus…working through all of us, as it were, to ensure that his promises are kept forever.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.