Welcome to a Day of Joy
Today is truly a joyous day in the life of the Church as we, the Church of Wilmington and family and friends, gather for the Ordination into the Sacred Priesthood of our brother, Deacon Onyedikachukwu Chibundu John Enemuo. I especially welcome Deacon John’s family and friends who, while in Nigeria, are with us virtually as today’s ordination is being streamed live on the internet. Please know that while separated by physical location, you are here in our minds and hearts.
Today’s Readings and the Call to the Priesthood
In responding “present” to the invitation to come forward for ordination, you, Deacon John, are responding to the call of Christ to come follow Him in giving your life as a priest in service to the People of God. As you reflected upon today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, you expressed how you are being charged today “to go and bless the People of God, assist them in their need, be their strength in their weakness, be their joy in their sadness and bring Christ to them.” You will do this as you pray and celebrate the sacraments with and for people. You will do this as you teach and instruct people. You will do this as you bring Viaticum to the dying and Exult with the Church at Easter. As you reflected, Deacon John, on today’s second reading and St. Paul’s message that the Church, made up of many individual members, is one body, you told me that an important part of your priestly ministry will be to “recognize the gift and the talents of every member” of the Church and how “their gift and talents will be helpful to the Church…as a community of believers.” You will do this as you help a parish work together. You will do this as you give generously of yourself and are thereby a model for others. You will do this as a member of the Presbyterate of our Diocese who joins his gifts and talents with the various gifts and talents of brother priests as we together serve the needs of this local Church. And lastly, Deacon John, as you reflected upon today’s Gospel and Jesus’ message to us that He came to serve and not be served, you have expressed to me that your prayer is that you “always be a servant and serve the people well.” Your life as a servant will be lived out when the good things you do are not noticed or are, at times, taken for granted, and yet you continue to do those good things. Your life as a servant will be lived out as you accept a responsibility that is difficult and not personally rewarding but that it is something that is needed and has been asked of you. Your life as a servant will be lived out as you ask not what others can do for you but what you can do for others. We join you, Deacon John, in your prayer that you “always be a good servant and serve people well.”
In the Name of Jesus the Nazarean
Mindful of the call that you have received to serve the People of God and having reflected upon the ways that you will live this call out, I also invite you, Deacon John, to always keep in mind that having been configured to Christ through ordination, your priestly ministry will be exercised in and through Christ. Over the past six weeks of the Easter season, we have been hearing at Mass the story of the Early Church as told to us in the Acts of the Apostles. I close my homily this morning by inviting us to recall two particular stories that we heard over these weeks. The first story comes from the third Chapter of Acts and tells of St. Peter and St. John encountering a man, crippled from birth, begging for alms. St. Peter turns to the man and confesses that he has neither silver nor gold to give him, but what he does have he will give him. And with that, St. Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, stand up and walk.” And the man, standing up, starts praising God and both walking and jumping up and down goes with them into the temple. As you go forth to begin your priestly ministry, Deacon John, you, like St. Peter, will share a treasure that is far more valuable than silver and gold. It is a treasure for which the world hungers, the deer longs, the heart is restless. God will use you in ways that you have never expected. People will be encountered in ways that you never foresaw. Like St. Peter and St. John, give to others the gift that has been given to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, help people to stand up and walk in the freedom of God’s Kingdom.
The second story comes from Acts 14 and is remarkably similar. It tells of St. Paul and St. Barnabas also encountering a man who has been crippled from birth. St. Paul also tells him to stand up and walk and this man also jumps up and walks. This second story differs, however, from the first in the way that the crowd reacts to this miraculous healing. In the case of Paul and Barnabas, the crowd cries out that gods in the form of men have come to them. They call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes and prepare to offer sacrifices to them. When Barnabas and Paul become aware of this, they rush into the crowd, tear their garments and tell them that they are men who have been charged with bringing the Good News to them. Paul and Barnabas know that they are earthen vessels that contain the treasure and, in the words of St. Paul, this makes “it clear that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). As an earthen vessel, Deacon John, continue to go to God in prayer and supplication. Allow God to shape and mold you. Allow God’s light to shine in and through you. Be a vessel of compassion, kindness, goodness and hopefulness. Don’t be disheartened by your limitations. Never underestimate the power of God’s grace working through you.
Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi
As you, Deacon John, enter into the Priesthood on this joyous day, let us remember Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi who was a Nigerian priest who died less than sixty years ago and was beatified in 1998 by St. John Paul II. Blessed Michael once wrote: “God will give you double for what you give Him.” As you begin your priestly ministry, Deacon John, may you, like Blessed Michael and all the saintly priests that have gone before you, give your very self to God. And may you be ever strengthened in your priestly ministry by the grace of God that will be returned many times over to you.