Today, a priest of our Archdiocese is celebrating his 50th anniversary of ordination. Without wishing to embarrass him, ad multos annos FB! He is a joyful priest, now retired, who served faithfully, fruitfully and effectively in different parish settings over the many years of his priestly stewardship. Faith and trust have been the markers of his priestly life, and a wonderfully generous love of God and God’s people. Well done, good and faithful servant.

We have just heard how Jesus saw the life of his first priests, commissioned at the Last Supper: “I commission you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” Of course, we know that Jesus did not send out his priests to bear bad fruit, but good fruit – not what will perish, but that which will last. Some of those words which I just used to describe our golden jubilarian are indeed words that point to a priestly life that has produced good fruits: faithful to the Lord; joyful in living; trusting of the Spirit; generous in service; a good steward of God’s graces. If this might be said of any of us who are ordained ministers of the Gospel – through the ups and downs, the griefs and hopes of our lives – we would be happy men, and our people would flourish and be happy.

From today, Alex, Hoang, Jaycee, Joseph and Samuel, you may fairly say with Isaiah, that “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.” This spirit, a gift of the Holy Spirit, will be shaped in a particular way for each of you. You will come to exercise your priesthood in uniquely individual forms, and you will each walk along differing paths. But we also know from Isaiah that this spirit you will receive has certain specific dimensions to it, by which you might take the measure of your priestly walking. It is a missionary spirit that sends you out to bear good news to those who are poor in any way. It is a medicinal spirit that enables you to bind up the wounded with compassion and tenderness. It is a spirit of justice and mercy that asks of you to seek out paths of freedom for the imprisoned of heart, mind and body.

To live according to this kind of priestly spirit, you will inevitably find your feet taking you along paths that lead you out onto the streets, into parishes, at hospitals, and in prisons. But all of these locations can be found together in one place – in family homes. For it is in the reality of our family lives, mixed in blessing as each one is, that you will find all the locations where you might bear priestly fruit. For:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of [our time], are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts… United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every person. (Gaudium et Spes, §1)

Do not presume, therefore, that this priestly spirit is given to you for your own possession. It is not a status to be claimed and imposed, but a grace to be received and given. For the ordained priesthood is not ours alone: it belongs to, and given for all God’s people. “All of us, (said St Paul), in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.” We priests do not stand apart from Christ’s Body, but are members of it. So, be content that you are receiving the grace to be as unassuming as a strand of hair on the head of the Body of Christ, and take your part accordingly.

Treasure this day, my brothers; not as an achievement, but as a grace to step out along the path Christ is commissioning you to take. Bear good fruit that will last, and do so joyfully, generously. You will say to God’s people for the rest of your lives: The Lord be with you. Be humble enough to receive back from them the response they will give: And with your spirit.

Archbishop Comensoli delivered this homily at the ordination of Fr Alexander Chow, Fr Hoang Dinh, Fr Jaycee Napoles, Fr Joseph Nguyen and Fr Samuel Pearson.