Commissioning of Seminarians

Homily given by Bishop Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay

Sunday 3B – 24 January 2021
Commissioning of Seminarians
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral

In today’s Gospel, Saint Mark describes the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and his preaching begins with the words “Repent for the Kingdom of God is close at hand”. For most of us the word ‘repent’ probably means to feel sorry for sin. We know we have sinned, we are sorry, we promise to try not to fall into sin again and then we say we have ‘repented’. And all that is true; that is part of what repentance means. But in the Gospel, the word ‘repent’ has a more radical meaning than a feeling of sorrow.

The actual Greek word used in the Gospel, μετάνοια, means a change of mind. In His first preaching, Jesus is telling people to change their minds about God and about what it is to be human.

Because God’s kingdom is near, people should change their minds about what it is to be human; true life does not mean oppressing and cheating others but rather loving others as oneself.

Because God’s kingdom is near, people should change their minds about God; stop seeing Him as a harsh judge lying in wait to destroy and instead see Him as a loving Father, always ready to forgive those who acknowledge their sin.

This ‘repentance’; this change of mind, will cause us to seek the kingdom of God above all things and to spread the Good News to others.

To repent is to see God and oneself in an utterly new light. To believe that everything is possible with God’s help. Hope moves in where before there was only despair and hopelessness.

God is a loving Father who willingly forgives those who turn to Him, and His kingdom is one of mercy and forgiveness for sinners. Seen in that light, the kingdom attracts people. Enthusiasm is infectious.

In a few moments, together we will make the Profession of Faith. As the community of Christ’s Body, we do this each Sunday as a reminder that we are baptised. As sons and daughters of God, we are living members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Baptism is the great sacrament which unlocks for us the mystery of salvation. It cleanses us from sin and incorporates us into the Body of Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Baptism animates us for the work of salvation. It quickens the fire within for the proclamation of the Gospel and the building up of the People of God.

The ordained priesthood is essential to the mystery of salvation, because it is the gift that God gives to the Church for the sanctification of God’s People. It can be seen most powerfully realised in Word and Sacrament – which the Church celebrates now in this Eucharist as we remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

The priest must be willing and prepared to proclaim the Gospel every day. As Saint Paul reminds us in the Second reading, the world as we know it is passing away. (1Cor 7:31) In the same letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul professes that he has a duty to preach the Gospel, “I do not boast of preaching the gospel” he says, “since it is a duty which has been laid on me”. (1Cor 9:16)

Preaching is not the exclusive right of the priest – all the baptised are preachers of the Gospel by word and deed. However, through the Sacrament of Orders, the priest becomes a unique witness to Christ.

While long hours of study, prayer, human development, and pastoral formation serve to prepare a young man for a life of testimony to Christ, there is no substitute for personal knowledge of Jesus.

Knowing Jesus imbues the priest with the Holy Spirit and equips him to be a spiritual guide, a messenger of hope, and a community leader. Above all, the priest’s ministry of leadership is a ministry of love, because Jesus loved.

Love requires attention, time, and basic knowledge of the other to be effective. Time and again, the Gospel prompts us to see Jesus’ love for others as the pattern for our own lives. Jesus cured the sick, he forgave the repentant sinner, he cast out demons and raised up those who were oppressed.

Matthew, while today is a high point of your pilgrimage to Christ, it does not end with your commissioning to commence your discernment and formation at the Seminary. Seminary formation is a means to an end. The Seminary is a place for prayer, discernment, education, and configuration to Christ.

Like the disciples in today’s Gospel, Jesus extends to you an invitation. “The time has come”, “the Kingdom is at hand”, “repent and believe the Good News”.

Like the disciples, you will seek the Lord, and finding the Master, you too will embrace the mission to give your life as testimony to the saving love of God.

You are not alone. Your brother seminarians are eager to accompany you on this pilgrimage of faith. Your family and friends are devoted to your well-being and happiness. The members of our Diocesan Vocation Team, along with the seminary formators, are ardent in their work of assisting you to become the best priest possible.

Today, we pray for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit into your mind and your heart. In a special way, in this Year of Saint Joseph, we entrust you and all our seminarians, to his care. As Saint Joseph was just and virtuous and as he demonstrated chaste, loving, and manly character in his life, through his intercession may he inspire you to do the same.

As the community of the Church, we accompany you with affection and prayer. May you and all our seminarians be filled with the love and the joy and the peace of Christ. May you offer yourselves freely in devotion to God and for the service of God’s holy people. AMEN.