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‘Priestly business in this is-ness of God’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

May 22, 2024

Editor’s note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the Jubilee Mass, celebrated on May 14 to honor priests reaching milestone years of service. The jubilarians will be featured in next week’s edition.

Pope Benedict XVI told us that at the foundation of everything, there are these wondrous words: God is. Brothers, we live at an hour where so much seems to be in crisis. Benedict’s words invite us to take time out and turn our attention away from ourselves, so we might turn to God first. God is – and here we must underline that little word: is. In other words, God is at work, God is acting…He has not turned His creation over to a world-wide secular tsunami that seeks to gain ever increasing momentum and power.

God has not lost His own place in a world that desires to function autonomously without Him. No, the world is and remains God’s world. Only God is God no matter how much technology grows. God can act, and God does act in a very real way now, in this world and in our lives. So, we have cause to be zealous, hope-filled, even excited in our priestly lives and ministry today. Emmanuel, God is with us.

Back on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2005, Pope Benedict stated that “The closer a person is to the living, active God, the closer he or she is to people.” Participation in the prophetic mission of Jesus, that is concern for the salvation for souls, brings with it a zeal and a fervor that will inform every part of our priestly vocations.

Concern for the salvation for souls contains within it divine energy, such inspiration will get us up in the middle of the night to help the dying and their loved ones. It wants to make sure those in nursing homes and hospitals and the homebound are cared for and comforted. Our concern for the salvation of souls motivates us to be available for confession at convenient hours for our people. We recommit to fervent preaching and re-stoke our passion to ensure that the formation of our parishioners for the sacraments will facilitate the way that leads to their lifelong conversion. Because we care about their salvation, we can extend ourselves to reach out to the “lost,” and be a witness of hope and Christian joy by the words we preach and the lives we live.

Participating in the prophetic zeal of Jesus will also keep us alive to the mission of the Church. We need to tell the truth with love, with fervor, with humility. The pulpit is not a fence to straddle but a tower from which to proclaim what God has done for us, all of us, through His Son, Jesus Christ. We preach because we have something to say, not because we have to say something. (Bishop Sheen) and what we have to say is the joy of the Gospel. We are especially attentive to this Mystery of the Faith this Easter Season, re-claiming and proclaiming our heaven-bound, Resurrection heritage.

Today, the Church celebrates the faith life of Matthias, an individual who experienced God’s “is-ness” both Christ’s earthly and His resurrected active Presence. Today, this local presbyterate congratulates and expresses gratitude to our God for our brothers celebrating significant number of years of priestly business in this is-ness of God. 60 years: Andrew Amyot, thank you, and Leeward Poissant, thank you, 50 years: Raymond Diesbourg, thank you, Paul Kelly, thank you, 40 years: Howard Venette, thank you and 25 years: Scott Seymour, thank you! For decades, these men have encountered the is-ness of the risen Christ in Word and Sacrament, leading them to give a shepherd’s care to their people. The Church of the North Country and beyond have been and continue to be truly blessed because each of you care so much for the salvation of souls.

You remember in his Encyclical, Deus caritas est (2005), Benedict reminded us that “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Doesn’t our world today, be it largely unknowingly, yearn for such a new horizon and decisive direction?

That’s precisely where our priestly witness and ministry becomes vital. How does our ministry facilitate such an encounter? How does my parish Christian Formation, Sacramental preparation, celebration of Holy Eucharist and social outreach pave the way for this activity, this “is-ness” of God?

As we approach the Jubilee Year, the Holy Father challenges us to make hope its central message. He writes, “May the Jubilee be a moment of grace, personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, the “Door” of our salvation, whom the Church is charged to proclaim always, everywhere and to all as “our hope.” For sure, trials and tribulations mark the lives of those who preach the Gospel. Pope Francis reminds us that St. Paul often speaks of patience in the context of our need for perseverance and confident trust in God’s promises.

In our priestly ministry, we must keep ever before us the mission of the Church: concern for the salvation of souls. We are hope-filled because we continue to be Christ-led and Christ-fed. GOD IS! ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!!

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