Bishop Brennan pictured with Friar Catalin Ieremia Budau following his ordination to the deaconate.
Homily of Bishop Brennan :
Jeremiah, today you will take a big step towards priesthood. In the presence of your parents and your Franciscan community you will be conferred with the order of deaconate.
Deaconate in time will lead on to priesthood. This is where your journey is taking you. It is what you hope to do with the gift of your life.
You are now in your time of preparation, your time of prayer, study and reflection, a time when you choose your vocation every day.
You will have many questions at this time. Where will this journey take me? How will I cope with the challenges I meet along the way? What will it feel like twenty years down the road? Is this what I want to do with the gift of my life?
These questions cannot be answered today, that’s why a vocation is such an adventure. There can be no guarantees. Helen Keller Said “life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing”. Priesthood these days is certainly an adventure!
Some years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “The cost of your Discipleship.”
In that book Bonhoeffer said that “when God calls a man, he calls him to come and die”. In Bonhoeffer’s case this proved prophetically accurate because his opposition to Nazi rule cost him his life.
But there are many ways of dying, the physical one being the most obvious.
When we choose in life, whatever that choice may be, we die too, we die to other possibilities. This is the cost of discipleship. In Bonhoeffer’s case it was demanded in one dramatic act of heroic self-giving.
For most of us it won’t be like that, it will take the form of what the Dutch write Van Breeman calls “the heroism of the ordinary”.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but don’t underestimate it! It doesn’t demand putting your life on the line. And yet it can be the most difficult challenge you will ever face.
The heroism of the ordinary, the strength to face every day, the routine, the repetition, believing that what you do is valuable and meaningful.
This is where the heroism of the ordinary kicks in. We often think of the Kingdom coming in apocalyptic events.
Mostly it doesn’t happen like that at all, often the Kingdom is made manifest in small ways.
In being with people where they are, helping them, consoling them, encouraging them, reminding them in a million small ways that they are precious in the eyes of God.
This takes a special kind of courage and plenty of staying power. Anybody can do it for a time but to do it all the days of your life demands great strength of character and spirit.
I am often struck by the way the Readings at Mass rhyme with the occasion that is being celebrated. Today is no exception. The Readings we have just listened to are so relevant to someone answering the call to ministry and service.….”be holy”…..”you belong to Christ”…..”give to anyone who asks.”
Some years ago the late Karl Rahner gave a retreat to German seminarians in Rome.
He said to them “you are called to your vocation in a strange misty time…..whether it’s dubious tranquillity is the beginning of a new outpouring of God’s spirit or the calm before the storm we do not know”.
Well, we know now! It was the calm before the storm! The storm has broken and the church has been damaged, the winds are still high, we are continuing to experience after-shocks.
When you are caught in a storm there is very little you can do except to weather it. At such times there is the temptation to feel there must be a quick fix, a course of action which will make everything alright.
If there is it hasn’t been found yet! The words of Jesus in John’s Gospel come to mind “in the world you will have trouble……be brave…..I have conquered the world”.
If we had a choice we might choose another time, a time of greater faith, a time of fewer problems, but as Karl Rahner says we don’t have that choice, this is our time.
A spiritual writer has written “the contemporary situation arouses our hopes while it nourishes our fears, it promises a better church and a better world even as the danger of spiritual isolation hovers in the background.
We are where Christians should be, poised on the razor’s edge between present and future, aware of the possibilities for good or evil which open out in front of us”.
This may not be the most comfortable place to be but maybe it’s where we need to be, where God wants us to be.
I finish with a reflection by the American poet Mary de Turris Poust, it’s called “Walking Together.”
So often this journey through life
Can feel like a daily struggle,
A race to accomplish more,
Buy more, be more.
Today we pray for the wisdom
To take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
The true meaning of our journey
Is not about earthly things but about matters of the heart
And longings of the spirit.
We open our arms to those companions
Who join us on this pilgrimage of live.
We recongise that we are not meant
To walk this road one by one
But side by side.
Jeremiah, I wish you well on your journey towards priesthood and I pray that you will find priesthood itself, whatever it’s challenges, rich and rewarding.