Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Follow Me
‘Those who live close to Christ impart Christ’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 24, 2020

Bishop Terry R. LaValley's homily during the Chrism Mass, held June 19 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also Sanctification Day for the Clergy. That’s why I thought it would be fitting if we, the clergy of our local Church, could gather even in the midst of the ongoing health crisis. This is a graced moment for me to thank each of you for your sacrificial service and ongoing pastoral charity. This is a time to again be reminded that our priestly life is all about our relationship with Jesus – that simple, that challenging. This day in which we bless the oils and renew our priestly commitment, we once again call to mind that whenever we turn away from Jesus or neglect our relationship with Him, when our hearts don’t beat with the passionate pulse of our Savior, slowly but surely our commitment begins to fade and our lamps lose the oil needed to light up our lives and, through us, the lives of our parishioners. So, we gather to recommit and renew our minds and hearts, recalling the power of the anointings at our own Baptisms, Confirmations and Ordinations.

Given the current state of the world, our nation, of the Church and the family, it seems to me that St. John Chrysostom’s words ring so true. He said that the martyrs die only once for Jesus Christ, while the pastor of souls must die daily for his flock. Brothers, it is our confidence, our own faith, that bolsters and supports so many who have lost the vision of God. You are the visionary who helps the blind to see. Those who live close to Christ impart Christ. Your bishop, your Church, your parish thanks you for living closely to Jesus and dying daily for your flock. Thank you for imparting Christ when it’s not always so easy.

In the midst of today’s extraordinary challenges, we must stay alert to what Pope Francis called the tiredness of hope, that inner bitterness, even dryness of heart that can arise when we reflect on the distance between our personal expectations and the visible fruits of the labors of our apostolate. We can begin to lose heart and pastoral focus. A certain listlessness in prayer and resignation can settle in. Instead, we must always let ourselves be awakened by the Word of the Lord and by the cry of the People of God. St. Augustine warns that “Preachers who do not live holy lives are like road signs which point out the right way to others, but they themselves remain stuck in the same place.”

I encourage you to continue clinging to Jesus. Archbishop Sheen once wrote: “The absence of a spiritual life makes sermonizing dull, stale, flat and unprofitable…Contact with the divine is a privilege that can similarly turn into indifference unless each day one tries to get a step closer to the Lord…Trafficking with the Word of God Sunday after Sunday without prayer and preparation, does not leave a priest the same. It makes him worse. Failure to climb means to slide backwards.”

On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I want to thank you for revealing a heart that over the years has refused to become closed and bitter but has grown daily in love for God and his people. A heart that, like good wine, has not turned sour but becomes richer with age.

And don’t we yearn to warm people’s hearts, walking at their side in their dark, talking with them and even entering into their night and their darkness without losing our way? During this time of uncertainty and fear, we have a graced opportunity to truly accompany our people whose lives have been darkened and uncertain these last several months. Being able to feel my heart beating for others – in my own breast – in their search for truth and love, that’s what distinguishes the shepherd from the hired hand. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep and earns the privileged title “Father.”

Paul, Barnabas, John and friends had their day. Now, it is our day. This is our time. No dress rehearsal. This time, this age, this generation is yours and mine to evangelize, to catechize, to sanctify, to accompany and to serve. We look around us, day in and day out. All the people we see are ours (both inside and outside our church doors). They are our mission.

In many ways, this mission is much more difficult today than in centuries past. Our people are more educated, far more knowledgeable, and more influenced by the culture of the modern world. Sometimes, they seem more resistant to the truly spiritual. Let your life be a poem of praise to God in the cacophony of this world’s noise and indifference. Your poem needs to be proclaimed with joy – Gospel Joy!

Each, in your own way, have been poems of praise and I am so very grateful. I particularly want to point out four men in our midst whose ministry among us has been nothing short of inspiring and exceptional. You know them well. Our Fifty Year Jubilarians: Msgr. Robert Aucoin, Msgr. Dennis Duprey, Father Vinny Flynn and our Forty Year Jubilarian, Father Donald Robinson. I was reflecting on each of their priestly lives and my heart is so touched…talk about shepherds after the heart of Jesus…tireless sacrifice, joy-filled presence through some pretty dark times has marked their priestly lives.

These men, indeed each of you, priest and deacon, I know, continue to embrace the Cross in your pastoral ministry. I know you sacrifice much. You know that if we at Mass eat and drink the Divine Life and bring no death of our own to incorporate into the death of Christ through our own sacrifice, we might be considered parasites on the Mystical Body of Christ. Shall we eat bread and give no wheat to be ground? Shall we drink wine and give no grapes to be crushed? The condition for incorporation into the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and into His glorification is our embrace of His Cross and our incorporation into His death.

The Lord has chosen you…to be peculiarly His own…because He has loved you. The Holy Father wrote that “the priest molded after the heart of Christ is one who lives between the Lord to whom he has consecrated his life and the people whom he has been called to serve. Let me assure you, each of you is an essential worker in the Lord’s vineyard here in the North Country – so necessary in all phases of the lives of our sisters and brothers. Thank you for saying “Yes” to the Lord’s call to serve in ordained ministry and being such faith-filled servants. Continue to live your poem of praise. YES – May God be praised…forever may God be praised.

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.