Homily: Ordination to the Priesthood - Reverend Dean Bongat

Ordination to the Priesthood
Reverend Dean Bongat

15th September, 2018
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Bendigo

Jer 1:4-9; Ps 83:3-6. 8. 11. R. v.5; 2 Cor 5:14-20; Jn 15: 9-17

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all as we come to celebrate this special day in the life of Dean Bongat as he is soon to be ordained to the Priesthood. Dean has chosen our readings for Mass today, as these words from the Scriptures have special significance for him, as he accepts his calling from God to the Priesthood.

This is a feeling very much resonated in the First Reading of today from the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah talks about his vocational experience, as God saying to him “before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.” There is always the supremacy of grace in any call from God … and for Dean it specifically meant eventually the call to the Priesthood. All of this is God’s initiative to bring us into his Trinitarian love. It is a sharing of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit deep within the human heart.

For St Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, reconciliation with God, whose ambassador he became (cf. 2 Cor 5:20), is a gift from Christ. Paul makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice. Jesus gave his life by dying for all. Similarly, we are called in his name, to lay down our lives, to live no more for ourselves but for Christ who died and was raised for us. We live no longer for ourselves, for our own interests and “image”, but in the image of Christ, for him and following him, with his love and in his love, so it is not us we preach but as we are reminded also in Jerimiah, ‘It is the Lord who speaks’ through us (Jer 1:8).

Therefore, Dean, by your good example today in your Ordination, you help us “eaves-drop” even more deeply on the intimate prayer of Jesus at the Last Super in today’s Gospel. Jesus shares with us from the depth of his Sacred Heart “This is my commandment; love one another, as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” And now, quite literally, dear Dean, you lay down your life forever in the service of God’s kingdom as a Priest in the Catholic Church. You will do this sacramentally in a few moments by laying prostrate on this Cathedral sanctuary as we pray over you the Litany of the Saints. You will also experience it in the great prayer of Ordination to the Priesthood where we will ask God to make you always “a faithful steward of the Lord’s mysteries.”

It is quite clear, my dear Dean, that the maturation of your love for the Lord has now reached this more public stage were you want to become a missionary disciple of the Lord as a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek … which is an eternal order and finds its heart in the Priesthood of Christ, which has been given to you already in Baptism, but now is going to be expressed in a particular way through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The prayer of Ordination asks our Almighty God to “renew deep within you the spirit of holiness.” Dean, in a moment you will step forward and formally respond to this extraordinary invitation the Lord has given you. You will need deep faith, great courage, and unfailing humility. The gift you are given today is given for you, of course, but only so, that through you the Lord can be present with his people.

Today you are set apart not so that people can honour you and defer to you, but so that through you the Lord can shine forth. At this time in our Church’s history, we realise more than ever before how essential is the fidelity of our priests.

Each day you will have to remind yourself that the Priesthood is about simple, humble service rather than about domination or control. It is about gentleness and compassion rather than rigidity and arrogance. It is about being proclaimers of the truth – but God’s truth, not your own. It is about showing people the way, by word and example, and leading them along this way – but it must be the Lord’s way, not your own.

Today your whole life is given over to the Lord, to his Church and to his People. From today you are no longer your own – you are His. We pray that you will always be faithful to this call – for the Church needs you, and God is calling to you.

Moreover, here, today, we commit ourselves to welcoming, supporting and praying for you and calling forth from you the gifts which the Lord has given you. If you are to help us be the priestly people we are called to be, then we must help you to be the ordained priest the Lord is calling you to be.

Be a priest in whose eyes, and in whose smiles, and in whose words, and in whose tears, people encounter the face and the heart of Jesus. Be a priest who is a living instrument and minister of Jesus' compassion, of His mercy, of His patience, of His forgiveness and of His love. This is what the Lord is asking of you as He draws you today into the mystery of the ordained ministry as a priest. It is what we, the People of God, so desperately need from you. It is what will bring you the joy and the peace, which is the Lord's promise to you. It is what we all pray for as you come forward to be transformed by the creative power of the Spirit of God.

The words of today’s Gospel have also been true for you from the day of your baptism: the Lord has chosen you, and He sends you to bear fruit for His kingdom. However, from today onwards, both these things take on a new meaning. Amongst all the ways in which the Lord calls His people to carry the treasure, to share it with joy and enthusiasm, and to protect it, you are being called to do so as an ordained priest. You must put your whole life at the service of the Church and make the unveiling of the face of Christ the driving force of everything you do.

He must be the treasure which you hold close to your heart, contemplate often and deeply, come to appreciate each day more fully, and share generously, without counting the cost, with all those people to whom the Lord will send you. Because of what the Holy Spirit will do within you through this mystery of your priestly ordination, you must, in the words of St Augustine, “become what you are”. This, too, will be pure gift rather than the result of your own unaided efforts, no matter how earnest they are. Nevertheless, gifts have to be received and gifts are meant to be used and developed. This is your part to play.

Today, the Lord says, personally, to you, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you and I commission you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last”. In a completely new way from today onwards, this becomes your life. With the same hope, which led you into the seminary, with the same hope that helped you through the difficult and challenging moments, with the same hope that brought you to your ordination as a deacon, soon I will ask you to step forward again and once more, with all your heart, give your “yes” to the Lord.

May God, who has begun this good work in you, now bring it to fulfilment. And so, the moment has come: let us proceed in faith.