The Bishop's homily on the occasion of the ordination to the sacred priesthood of Father Gamsi, the 5th of December, 2020
"Lim, you are being ordained a priest during this Season of Advent. It has such a sense of hope running through it, with its emphasis on trusting God and God’s love for us. During Advent the Church seems to review almost all of sacred history, encouraging us to recognise God’s love and to become more profoundly aware of that love, and to trust more deeply in God because of that love. The heart of it is, If God is for us, how can we lose? It is this spirit of hope, of confidence in God, that should animate our lives as disciples of Christ. But hope can at times be a difficult virtue to practise, depending upon the circumstances of our lives and the challenges we face.
"You are also being ordained during this ongoing time of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused or played a part in such a huge number of deaths, of people being hospitalised, of others having to self-isolate, and of all of us not being able to mix as freely as we would want with family and friends; it has caused such devastation to the general economy, to businesses and to people’s livelihood, causing many to lose their jobs or be threatened with redundancy. It has also affected us as a Church, as a diocese, in terms of our public worship of God and our pastoral care; and, Lim, it has affected your own plans for this ordination, given the restricted numbers of family and friends you could invite. Nobody has escaped the consequences of the coronavirus, and a general sense of hope has been badly damaged! If ever there was a time when people were looking for signs of hope, for people who are filled with authentic hope, it is now.
"Today is a day of great hope for our diocese, for our Church. We joyfully gather here with you, Lim, to witness your self-giving to the Lord, your desire to serve Christ as a priest. To hear you respond in trust and hope, ‘I am, with the help of God’, to the question I put to you, ‘Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest’, will fill our hearts with renewed hope. God is still calling men to serve his Church as priests, and men, such as you, are still responding! A priest is certainly called to be a man of hope, a man for others, one who has a Christ-like heart. Lim, you have not chosen special scripture readings for Mass today, but you have instead allowed the Advent readings for today to speak to you, to speak to us all. In the gospel St Matthew takes up the theme of a lost and wayward people, without hope, whom Jesus reaches out to with care and concern. The poor, the sick, the marginalised were all given hope when they encountered Jesus. That’s what Jesus also commissioned his disciples to do. As he went out searching for the lost and strayed, so must we as a church. As he cured people and healed their hearts, so must we. Pope Francis regularly reminds us, who are priests, that we must never forget that we are Shepherds who, with the heart of Christ, have a particular concern for the lost. Holding before us the parable of the lost sheep he challenges us by turning it on its head – so often he says we are concerned with the one who has remained behind, whilst the 99 have gone missing! We know we need to find creative ways to reach out to the 99, to walk with them, to renew their sense of hope in God’s love, and their hope in the care his Church will offer them, so as to help them find their way home.
"The priest, a disciple, after the example of Christ Jesus, is called to be a man of God, a man of hope, to whom people can turn for support, understanding, care and hope. Why? Because, as Advent reminds us, the story of God, which as a Church we proclaim and strive to live by, is one long narrative of God’s passionate, constant, love for all humanity, made visible, incarnate, in Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, the cause of the hope we carry in our own hearts. The priest, above all, is called to accept and embrace this Divine love in his heart so that he may bring hope to and draw out hope in others. This is certainly a time when people of faith, people who have drifted from the Church, and people who proclaim no faith, are all searching for signs of hope. A message of hope is badly needed, far deeper than the promise of vaccines, welcome though they are. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds to be a proclaimer of hope. To proclaim a message of hope authentically, calls for courage, but above all, a close relationship with the One who is always the source of our hope . As a priest, Lim, you are called to live your life close to the Lord, in such a way that hope, not despair, life rather than death, light not darkness, remains strong in your life and ministry. Because the priests that people need and value are those who are caring, who walk closely with them in their times of joy, of sadness, of despair, and who constantly offer them hope. That cannot be done without the Lord!
"This ordination ceremony will shortly highlight some of the wonderful supports you are offered, Lim, to enable you to be such a man of hope. The prayer of ordination and the anointing of your hands with the blessed oil of chrism are the outward signs of the inner gift of the Holy Spirit which you receive afresh today. You will constantly draw upon the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in your life and ministry as a priest. The calling upon the prayerful intercession of the saints in the litany also expresses, in spite of what you might at times feel in your ministry, that you are not alone! You will always have at your side the prayerful support and inspiration of the company of saints in heaven. You are also ordained into the presbyterate, so please call upon the help, encouragement and guidance of your brother priests here in the diocese, and beyond. It has been my experience that when a priest is in need, whatever liturgical or other differences we might have, we all gather around him with prayerful and practical support. The vestments you receive today remind you, and us, that the priest is never just himself. Of course he must always remain true to himself, be authentic, but in being ordained he is taken up into a greater identity, as a Priest of Christ Jesus; the one who sustains him, the source of the hope within him, and the one whom he ultimately serves.
"As we now draw near to the ordination ceremony, let us pray that the Lord Jesus, who has begun this good work in you will continue to bring it to completion through a long, blessed, happy and fruitful ministry. Amen!"
Bishop Patrick McKinney
5 December 2020