Homily on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Priesthood of Fr. David White, Driffield, 4th July 2017
Dear Fr. David, brothers in priesthood, deacons, brothers and sisters in Christ.
I cordially greet all of you. It’s always a great pleasure to be with you and to pray in this church of Our Lady and St. Edward.
Today your parish priest Fr. David is celebrating the Silver Jubilee of his faithful service as a priest of the Catholic Church. Thank you Father for inviting me to take part in this very important celebration for you and for the whole parish. Let me, from the bottom of my heart, congratulate you and wish you all the very best.
Today we are looking at you and we see a simple man like others, maybe a little bit shorter than most people. You can be happy, but also can be preoccupied with some problems. You can be in good health, but can also experience illness, have good days, but also bad. It’s natural.
But at the same time, you are different because spiritually you are very powerful.
The Priest is an ambassador of God to His people and at the same time – is an ambassador of the people to God. He presents God’s teaching to people and people’s petitions to God.
St. John Paul II says that the vocation to priesthood is a gift and mystery. It really is a great mystery. Why did Christ choose simple Galilean fishermen to be his apostles? Couldn’t he find more educated and more suitable candidates for such a responsible mission? For sure, he could. But he didn’t. He chose simple fishermen to be his apostles and to continue his mission in the world.
In this case we have to admit, that if Christ chooses somebody for special mission, he gives him the special grace enabling him to fulfill that mission. He changes simple people and even sinners into saints like he did with Saul, who persecuted the Church. But with the help of the grace of God he became St. Paul – the most famous missionary in the world. The name “Paul” comes from the Latin word “paulus” and it means “small”. The apostle Paul was not tall. He was rather short, but he became spiritual giant.
A vocation to the priesthood, according St. John Paul II is a gift. Yes, it’s a gift for a man and a gift for the religious community. First of all, it’s a great gift for a man. Through ordination he is enabled to act in the name of Jesus and with his authority.
The principal duties of a priest are:
1) to preach the Gospel;
2) to celebrate the sacraments;
3) to be the leader of the Christian community through serving people.
The first and most important duty is to preach the word of God. St. Paul teaches that faith comes from listening. It means that somebody has to speak, in our case, has to proclaim the Gospel.
The most important task of the Church in the modern world is the new evangelisation. It doesn’t mean, that the Church is going to proclaim a new Gospel. No, the Gospel always remains the same. But we have to look for new ways of proclaiming the Word of God. In modern secular society it’s not enough to preach the Gospel from the pulpit. We have to use other methods, including using the media, as for example in this church liturgical services are televised live.
Next is the priest’s duty to celebrate the sacraments – those visible signs through which we receive unseen the grace of God needed for salvation. Who except the priest can do this? Who can celebrate the Eucharist? Who can absolve sinners? No one human being can do this except the priest.
Finally, serving the people, the priest builds the Church as a community. The real Church is not a building, but a Christian community built from our hearts and souls. Such a community is called the Mystical Body of Christ.
We see how important the mission of priest is. He can’t be substituted by another person and without the priest, the Church cannot fulfil her mission.
During the time of persecution in the former Soviet Union almost all the churches were closed. In the nineteen nineties, the State began to give back to the Christian communities confiscated churches. In the city of Perm which is in the Ural region, the church was also reopened. After I celebrated the first Mass there, the faithful asked me to visit a cemetary. We came to the grave of the first priest who excercised his priestly ministry in this city. He built the church and passed away at the end of the nineteenth century. Nobody present knew him, but during the three generations of persecution they used to come to the grave to pray. They were happy that despite the conditions of the harsh persecution they were able to visit the grave and pray there. Through visiting and praying at this grave, they were able not only able to preserve their faith, but also pass it on to the next generation.
Dear Fr. David, Christ called you to the priesthood and you responded. Your palms were anointed with the sacred oil to offer God sacrifice for the people, but first, and before that, you yourself became the sacrifice.
For 25 years you have been faithfully serving the people of God in the Catholic Church, preaching the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and building up the Christian community. The people who are gathered here today are grateful to you and pray for an abundance of grace, in order that you will successfully continue your mission.
There is a very interesting story about the Ascension of Christ into heaven. The Archangel Gabriel was the first to meet him. He asked Jesus if all the people on earth knew the Gospel. Jesus responded that so far not everyone. And what did you do to teach them?, asked Archangel Gabriel. I called Peter, John and James, and I called the rest of the twelve and sent them to preach the word of God. The Archangel looked at Jesus sceptically and said, that they probably fulfilled his order, but their successors will forget. Do you have another plan? Jesus replied, “Gabriel, I choose Peter, John, and James, the rest of the twelve and I do not have any other plan”.
Fr. David, Christ chose you and has no other plan. Be faithful to your priestly vocation and may Almighty God bless you and may Our Lady protect you always, AMEN.