August 26, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

First duty of a bishop is to be a man of prayer

This week, I continue with Part 2 of the Ordination Instruction for Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville.

Ordination Instruction - Part 2

Like the Apostles, by episcopal ordination you are charged to be a living sacrament of the Paschal Mystery; to be a humble servant for the unity of the Body of Christ and to be Teacher in the Person of Christ, the Head of the Body of the Church.

What a marvelous way of life and ministry! And so Bishop, this afternoon we celebrate your ordination with profound joy.

When we say a bishop (or priest) is first and foremost a witness to mystery, we say he must be able to live the Paschal Mystery in such a way that he leads the people of God to participate in it. That means many things. Right at the heart of the Paschal Mystery stands the Cross of Christ.

The identity of the Church is rooted in the mystery of God. The identity of the community at prayer is rooted in the mystery of God. The identity of the bishop and priest is rooted in the mystery of Christ.

It doesn’t work to try to explain or understand our Church or the Eucharist or the other sacraments or priestly ministry or priestly identity apart from the mystery of Christ. And so we are often misunderstood.

Bishop Thompson, you become a servant for the unity of this diocese. The single driving motive for our call to ministry in the Church is love of Jesus Christ, and love of him moves us to a pastoral love for the many.

Love of God and belief in his care is the motive that leads us to want to serve and not be served. The pastoral love of Christ in us serves unity and communion in our Church in a divided world.

The unity of the Body of Christ, the Church, is the main reason why we bishops and priests promise obedience as part of our service of charity. (We spoke of that one phone call from the papal nuncio that in one minute changed your life forever.)

Our obedience helps preserve the treasure received from Jesus through the Apostles and their successors for the unity of his body. Our promise of obedience is a gift to God in the person of Christ, and it is joined to his own obedience to the Father. And it is a gift given to continue the life and fidelity of the Catholic Church to Jesus Christ.

We bishops, with our priests, serve the unity of our faith, and so we join all bishops and the bishop of Rome in the official teaching mission of the Church. It is our responsibility to see that the treasure of our faith is passed on to future generations.

Today, Bishop, as when you were ordained a deacon and a priest, you are urged once more “joyfully to meditate on the Word of God. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

This afternoon, you are asked to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with constancy and fidelity. Bishop, in prayer today, you will become Charles, our bishop.

I realize this is not my jurisdiction, but I would like to make a suggestion: If anyone slips and says Bishop Chuck, I suggest that they make a charitable contribution to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Bishop, we can deal with this later.

In order to serve the unity of charity and the unity of faith in this diocese, Bishop Thompson, I assert that our first duty as a bishop is to be a man of prayer.

As teacher, our duty is to pray the words we want to preach and to teach. It is our duty to know the Lord, whom we worship in personal prayer. As pastor, it is our duty to know our sisters and brothers in prayer. For this gift, today we say thank you, Bishop Thompson.

Sisters and brothers, we can’t make many guarantees about your lives, but we know this—if you are faithful in prayer day in and day out with your bishop, Charles, everything will be OK and with him you will persevere in faith with peace and joy.

I have your ordination card here. The picture on the front could be your first Communion. On the back of the card is a quote from the prophet Micah: “What is good has been explained to you; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8).

Bishops are called to live the simple life of the Gospel in a way that somehow mirrors Jesus, the one who serves. Would you agree that when all is said and done, what our Church needs more than anything from us bishops and priests is integrity and holiness?

The Church needs us to be no-nonsense, down to earth, holy, spiritual and moral leaders who are who we claim to be. With Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus, that is the ultimate service, the ultimate witness to the unity of faith.

God bless you, Bishop Thompson, with many fruitful years of living his call to holiness.

Finally, sisters and brothers of this local Church, blessed are you who pray for and with your bishop, Charles. Blessed are you who love and support him.

Please God, may it be so. †

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