Ordination of Fr Brennan Sia
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB ordained Deacon Brennan Sia to the Priesthood at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Perth, on Friday evening, September 27.
At the ceremony, the Archbishop delivered the following homily
Priestly Ordination of Brennan Sia
by Archbishop Timothu Costelloe SDB
As we gather in the cathedral this evening to celebrate this Mass in which Brennan will, through the mysterious presence and power of the Holy Spirit, be transformed from within so that he can be a living sign of Jesus among his people as their good shepherd, I am very conscious that our new pope, Pope Francis, is deeply engaged in the task of teaching us, not just by his words but also and much more by his actions, both what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus and what it means to be a good shepherd to God’s people. Because of this, and because of the particular gospel passage which Brennan has chosen for tonight’s Mass, where Jesus is moved to pity because the people are like sheep without a shepherd, I want to invite all of us to reflect on just what it is Brennan is being called to tonight. This is important for you, Brennan, because the task of being a living image, an icon we might say, of the Good Shepherd, tonight becomes the project of the rest of your life. It won’t always be easy, and you won’t always succeed brilliantly – none of us do – but from tonight onwards, in a way that simply hasn’t been true for you before, this is your call, this is your privilege, and this will be the source of your deep happiness. But it isn’t just important for you to reflect on the meaning of tonight’s liturgy. It is also important for all of us for as your brothers and sisters in the community of the Church we are being called tonight just as surely as you are – in our case called to accompany you – with our prayers, with our support, with our example, and with our love.
I imagine many of us are aware that in recent weeks Pope Francis has given an extraordinary interview to an Italian religious journal called “Civilta’ Cattolica”. The article has been widely translated and is available in many English speaking magazines and of course on the internet.
In this interview the pope says many beautiful and at the same time challenging things. When he speaks about the Church, for example, he says this: the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. And he goes on to add: I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugar! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Brennan, when you step forward in a few moments to be ordained as a priest, and the Holy Spirit takes possession of you in a new way, you will be both commissioned, and enabled, to be a healer of wounds. You will certainly do this through your celebration of the sacrament of penance, of reconciliation, as you welcome broken and sorrowful people with the warmth of Christ, when you listen to them with the ears and the heart of Christ, and when, in the name and with the compassion of Christ you absolve them from their sins. But you will also be a healer of wounds and a warmer of hearts in so many other aspects of your life. You will heal the wound of loneliness when you willing spend time with your people. You will heal the wound of rejection when you welcome people with an open heart. You will heal the wound of anger and impatience when you approach people with gentleness and sensitivity. You will heal the wound of avarice and greed when you live a life of simplicity and generosity. And in doing all of this you will warm people’s hearts, just as Jesus himself did on the road to Emmaus. “Did not our hearts burn within us,” the disciples said to one another, “when Jesus talked to us as we walked along the road?” As Pope Francis says, “the ministers of the gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of their people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost”.
And this point, too, is so important. Brennan, it is easy, as a priest, to get lost. You will want to give so much. You will want to be generous, even lavish, with the gifts God has given you, both your many natural gifts and the gifts of tonight’s ordination. You will want to really be a man for your people. And so you should. But unless you are also, and very deeply, a man of God and a man for God, you will get lost. And once we get lost it is not always easy to find our way back. Sometimes it can be a very hard road indeed. Brennan, you will not be a man of God, and a man for God, if you are not a man of prayer. When the pope describes his own life of prayer he says this: I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In many ways this is a simple pattern of prayer, but such a simple pattern has shaped a man who can speak to us as simply and as powerfully as Pope Francis does. It is a pattern which might well be summed up as “being there”. Yes, you might be distracted; you might even fall asleep, but as always God looks at the heart. Your being there for God, for prayer, will be a sign that your life is centered on God – and that is what God will see. So Brennan, from tonight onwards, be a man of prayer, a man of God. The only gift you will have to offer to God’s people, to us, as a priest is the gift of Christ – and you cannot offer Christ to others until you have welcomed him into your own life and given him pride of place in your own heart – and you have to keep him there.
Of course you don’t have to do any of this alone, and indeed you mustn’t try to do this alone. Already as a deacon you are part of that group of men who together share the vocation of the ordained ministry within the Church. Tonight, as well as being a living sign of Christ who puts his life at the service of others, you also become a living sign of Christ as the Good Shepherd of his people. Allow your brother priests, and your bishops, to support you, to encourage you, to advise you, and share your own wisdom, your own dreams, and the witness of your own priestly life, with us. As Pope Francis says in the interview to which I have been referring, “there is no full identity without belonging to a people”. If this is true for us as Catholics it is equally true for those of us who are priests. We do not bear alone the burden, and the privilege, of being signs of the presence of the Good Shepherd among God’s people: we share it with our brother priests. Brennan, as you bring your many gifts to your new life as a priest you will enrich the community of priests in our archdiocese and enable us to be, together, an even clearer sign that Jesus continues to guide and serve his people.
Let me conclude with this important thought. When Mary, at the time of the annunciation, was asked to be the mother of the messiah, she experienced fear and confusion. She wasn’t sure that she was able to be all that God was asking her to be. In the end, she was able to give her “yes” because she welcomed into her heart, and believed, the words of the angel. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most High God will cover you with its shadow.” Brennan, I say the same words to you tonight. Through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration those words become true for you in a whole new way. And because of that, you can now go forward with great hope, and with great confidence, not so much in your own strength or abilities but in the knowledge that God is saying to you now, “Brennan, do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.”