The first reading begins, “Shout with joy for Jacob! Hail the chief of nations! Proclaim! Praise! Shout: The Lord has saved his people.” We too call on the Lord today and praise Him. The prophet Jeremiah continues to express the Lord’s closeness and His desires for us.
The Lord Jesus wants to bring us back to where we belong. This has echoes for the times we live in. So many today are floundering and are in tears. There is so much human pain. Many are lost. The Lord cares about this. Jeremiah tells us that the Lord wants to comfort us and lead us back; that he will guide us “to streams of water, by a smooth path where we will not stumble”. Life has meaning. The nave of this cathedral where most of you are sitting from back door to the tabernacle, the main body of a church, comes from same root word for ‘ship’ as also in ‘navigate’ or ‘navy’. We travel through time, toward a destination- eternal life to God. We can go wrong and end up elsewhere. But with God and only with God life has ultimate meaning.
This is summarised in the first reading again – as is written over and again in Scripture: That He will be a father to us and we His people.
And He sends His Son, the beautiful, the strong, the suffering Jesus who is with us now in this church- in the tabernacle, in His Word, in our hearts, unless we have got rid of Him through sin, in this community.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews implores us to turn to Christ who is the true high priest who has been taken out of mankind to offer His life for us. One who can sympathise with us and who knows us because He is human.
He knows you and me.
And He knows you John and has chosen you to be His priest today in the presence of so many faithful people.
So John call on Him.
Call on Him like Bartimeus a blind beggar, who was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ What a model this blind man is for us!
Call on Him. He is the Saviour.
There is story recounted by Father Brendan Kilcoyne in a video commentary on today’s Gospel about King Edward VII of Great Britain who visited Ireland back in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, a member of the RIC at the time, was in the party which drove him around and acted as security. The King visited Connemara, and the village of Leenane at the end of Killary fjord, or Killary harbour. There is a hotel there – the Royal hotel. Edward VII visited houses in the area, including one of an old lady. He enjoyed his visit there and when leaving her little cottage said: Is there anything I can do for you? In the presence of his majesty here was her big chance, and said: “if it pleases your majesty I would like a bridge across the Killary”.
The King on leaving the house while shaking his head, said: “O my Irish subjects!” The elderly lady was asking too much by far. Perhaps he had in mind some nice parcel of food or a few loads of turf. But which of the two, Father Brendan asks, understood royalty better? She is in the presence of the king. Now is her big chance.
Bartimeus, is in the presence of a different king, whom he could not see. We too cannot see Jesus. But this man had faith. Here was his big chance. He called out to Jesus for help.
“And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet”. That is what will happen today. People of faith are sometimes laughed at in their places of work, in wider society – “don’t bother us with your religion”, “Keep quiet”. But Bartimeus shows us what to do: “he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’
And the Lord was moved.
Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’
The Lord is calling you, John today, in this special way. He is calling you to be His priest. He calls us all in our vocations in life, – marriage, single life, religious life, priesthood.
“Courage,’ they said ‘get up; He is calling you.”
The Lord Jesus called on others to help him in his work of healing. We all of us need helpers, to help each other to live a good life, to stand up for what is true about human life, about marriage and the family, about being true to one’s vocation, about being honest and upright. You John will need help from your brother priests, family, friends. You will need places where you can go to find support. All of us do. Let us seek those healthy places of support – not on screens but with people of faith and good friends. Things will get in the way. Temptations will arise.
So we must get rid of anything that gets in the way of meeting Jesus, of being with him. And Bartimeus “throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’
Today, John, you ask Jesus: “Let me be your priest”.
So we go first to Jesus – in prayer, in the sacraments. When asked by Jesus what he wanted from him Bartimeus gave a very straight answer: ‘Let me see again’. By giving this straight answer, he subjected himself unconditionally to Jesus’ authority… and this changed Bartimeus from begging along the road to walking on the road with Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus must be worked at. We must desire it. Heaven belongs to the greedy, to those who long for it. We beg Him for the grace to be close to Him.
Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
John in the rite today you will be asked to model your life on that of Christ, so copy His style. The style of Jesus as Pope Francis says is one of closeness, tenderness and compassion. The way of love, even when difficult.
Closeness to God in prayer as Pope Francis says, closeness to the bishop, to God’s people.
And what a day to be ordained – Mission Sunday! Like so many who have gone before you will go out on mission – calling people to Jesus, to prayer to the sacraments, by your work, your words and your example. To save souls.
“For us men and women and for our Salvation He came down from heaven.” As we recite in the Creed.
You will be the newest priest in the diocese. I pray John that you will not have this title for long and that many men will follow you in the priesthood, as we pray for an increase in vocations to the religious life and to marriage, the foundation of a solid family life.
To all of you here and participating online let us pray for each other – knowing that God is with us always, every day and every moment of each day.
Mother Mary in this month of your Rosary be with John and us all and in this Year of Saint Joseph, we pray for Joseph’s guidance for us all. Ite ad Ioseph.
The prayer of Bartimeus is still prayed in the Orthodox Church to this day – the words of the blind beggar echoing through history.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Each of us can call on him, now, with the faith of Bartimeus for what we need – “Lord, that I may see”, “Lord, that I may be a good priest”, “That I may live close to you.”
So we ask for much more than a bridge across the Killary, but that we may follow Jesus and help others to do so and “follow Him along the road.”, ultimately to Heaven.
- Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. This ordination Mass took place on Sunday 24 October, Mission Sunday.