Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily May 11 in the Choir Chapel of St. Peter Basilica in Rome.
Of the seven sacraments, there are only two that are generally reserved to me as bishop: confirmation and ordination; and of course, everyone I ordain has received the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation.
I confirm about 2,000 young people per year in about 55 ceremonies and then I just have to trust the Lord that these young people will then avail themselves of the gifts of the Lord that they have received. Over the past 10 years I have spent much time with our seminarians, living with the college seminarians at our House of Formation, and I have had the privilege of seeing them put the gifts that they have received into action.
But nowhere has this been more the case than with you Martin, despite the fact that I have been able to visit with you at most once a year.
You began your seminarian profile on the website of the Diocese of Little Rock with a quote from Genesis 22:14 that sums it all up for me — four simple words: “The Lord will provide.” That expresses the trust in God that enabled you to leave your home at age 17 in order to enter the seminary in Monterrey, without any guarantee that you would ever be able to return — and although we are very hopeful, eight years later we still don’t know yet. But one thing we do know is that “the Lord will provide.”
But today I would like to expand on that idea to remind us of something even more profound: how as a priest God will use you as an instrument of his providence for others. You were baptized and confirmed for your own benefit, but you will be ordained a priest for the benefit of others. The Lord will not only provide for you, he will also provide for others through you and we see this in the readings that you have chosen for your ordination.
In our first reading from Jeremiah we see that God had a role for this prophet in his plan from even before he was born and now the point has come for him to begin the work for which the Lord has prepared him.
“To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” If the Lord closes one door, he opens another and thus the Gospel is spread.
You are a man of faith to whom the Lord has given the Spirit’s gifts of understanding and fortitude on the day of your confirmation. Your courage and trust — your confidence that the Lord will provide — inspires me.
And then in the Gospel reading from John that you chose, Jesus entrusts the care of his flock to Peter — and by extension to you and me — with words that make it clear that our ministry is a labor of love.
This is the passage where Jesus rehabilitates Peter, inviting him to replace his three denials on Good Friday with three pledges of his love. But the way he — and we — are to express our love — and prove that our rehabilitation is real — will be for us to take care of the flock the Lord is entrusting to our care. To do so, you will need to draw on the remaining five gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, counsel, piety, fear of the Lord — and knowledge. After all, you have just about finished about 20 years of schooling in three different languages.
Martin, like Jeremiah, the Lord has called you to go wherever he sends you and speak the words he places in your mouth. Like Peter, the Lord is entrusting to you the care of his flock.
The Lord has prepared you for this in many ways. He has given you a loving, faith-filled family. You have experienced immigration and the challenge of adapting to life in a very different culture. Your spiritual growth was fostered in your parish and through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confirmation. You had a powerful experience of God’s love in a Search retreat and felt God’s call at a Come and See retreat as a high school senior.
With that your vocation was launched, and ever since, time and again, you have experienced what you wrote at the beginning of your vocation story: “The Lord will provide.”
He has provided for you in many ways and now as a priest he will use you to provide for others.
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