HOMILY FOR THE INSTALLATION
& INAUGURATION OF THE PASTORAL MINISTRY OF
MOST REVEREND TERRENCE PRENDERGAST, S.J.
AS NINTH ARCHBISHOP OF OTTAWA
NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2007
[Texts: Isaiah 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 20:20-28]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May I begin by thanking all of you who have come from near and far to celebrate with the Church of Ottawa this happy day in its history and to join with me in the inauguration of my pastoral ministry as shepherd of the flock of Christ in these parts.
At the outset, I wish to greet Most Reverend Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada and to assure of him of our solidarity with Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Your Grace, please extend to His Holiness the prayers and best wishes of the clergy, religious and lay faithful of Ottawa on this happy occasion.
Next, I know that I speak for all who have been in any way touched by his ministry, when I extend our expression of gratitude to Archbishop Gervais for his eighteen years of zealous and courageous leadership as the eighth archbishop of Ottawa. May you enjoy your years of retirement, Archbishop Marcel, and continue to be a beacon for us of joy in the Lords service! May Our God grant you many years of good health and the peaceful serenity that comes from having served the Lord and His Church faithfully over a lifetime.
I am pleased to acknowledge their Eminences, Cardinals Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Primate of the Church of Canada. You honour us with your presence. There are bonds of affection that unite Ottawa with the Primatial See soon to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the nomination of its first bishop, Mgr. Francois de Laval and play host next year to the world at the 49th Eucharistic Congress, whose theme is the The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World. We look forward, Cardinal Ouellet, to celebrating with you and your diocesans next year.
Montreal is my home diocese and Cardinal Turcotte has always remarked on how far I have traveled from Ahuntsic, in Montreals north-end. We wish you well this week, Eminence, as you observe twenty-five years of episcopal ordination on Friday and today celebrate your birthday.
Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke and President of the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops along with Bishop Richard Grecco of Toronto and Vice-President of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops graciously have come to give witness with the other bishops of our solidarity in the episcopal ministry.
Among todays principal concelebrants today are Bishops Paul Marchand, SMM of Timmins, Vincent Cadieux OMI of Hearst and Father James Tait, Diocesan Administrator of Pembrokethe three dioceses which, with our archdiocese, form the Ottawa ecclesiastical province. May we find ways every more effective ways of witnessing together to the Good News of Jesus.
I greet the priests of the Archdiocese, the fellow-workers with the bishop in the task of leading the people of God, as well as the deacons and pastoral workers who work with them. May our years together be marked by sincere bonds of affection, true fraternity in Christ and love for the people entrusted to our care.
As a religious priest myself, I salute the women and men religious who strive by the total gift of their lives to give living proof that a life of consecrated chastity, poverty and obedience can herald here on earth the call to give oneself totally to Gods kingdom.
Most importantly of all, I say to all of youthe lay members of this archdiocese that is so beloved of Godhow pleased I am to have been called to serve as your father in Christ, your brother in the mission we share and how I hope, in time, to become truly your companion and friend on the journey to the Kingdom of God. Please pray for me that whatever fears and anxieties I harbor in my soulconscious and unconsciousmay dissipate through our confidence in the grace of God, the embrace of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the maternal intercession of Our Lady, patroness of this cathedral basilica.
All of us, whatever our state in life as a Catholic Christianlay man or lay woman, consecrated person, pastoral worker, deacon, priest, bishopwe have all been called to enter on the path of holiness. We are challenged to live, in the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. May these sentiments characterize our relationship in the days, months and years to come!
A week ago, I was here for briefing sessions on the challenges facing the Archdiocese and to plan for this weeks festivities. I had some time free for a walk after supper on Sunday and wandered from the residence behind this cathedral, past the United States embassy, alongside the National Art Gallery, towards the Alexandra Bridge that joins Ottawa to Gatineau, constitutive units making up the National Capital Region. I read a marker in one of the parks that noted Ottawa is referred to as every Canadians second home town. Im not sure thats how people in the Rest of Canada consider it, but it has given me a way of seeing myself herein my second home town (well, maybe my fourth after Montreal, Toronto and Halifax!)
I wandered further afield, up and down paths that will soon become better known. You know, there are some striking vistas along those pathways. One can catch sight of the Parliament Buildings, the Supreme Court complex, the Museum of Civilization and several federal buildings across the river. From another vantage point, one can see the former Ottawa City Hall, catch a glimpse of the Prime Ministers Residence and Rideau Hall, and see glimmers of Rockcliffe Park where many of the embassies are located. All of these structures speak of importance, of authority and, yes, even of power.
Here we see where are located the levers of government, learn about the civil service which employs so many; there are, as well, other institutions of commerce, banking, technology, educational and scientific research. It must be very challenging, even heady, to be part of the apparatus that lies at the heart of Canadian life. No doubt, soon after arrival in the Canadian Capital, one begins to imbibe thoughts of leadership; or becomes aware of ones capacity to change things, to get things done; one can easily yearn to make ones mark.
As I was taking in these impressions, my mind turned toward the readings for todays liturgy and the task you and I have of sharing the Good News of Jesusthe fulfillment of the prophetic promises articulated by Isaiah in the First Readingto bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners&to comfort all who mourn&to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness&, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
What could possibly stand in the way of our being able to do this? Well, perhaps todays gospel offers us some clarity about how our motives can become mixed, indeed how yearning for Gods Kingdom can be side-tracked into seeking an opportunity for personal advancement, prestige and status.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee put their mother up to asking for special standing for themselves, that of reigning with Jesus at his right and left in the Kingdom. In Mark, the brothers ask for this coveted boon directly, but here they use an intermediarydoes this have echoes with how things are done in Ottawa? The other ten take umbrage at the demand of James and John, notto be surebecause they had different motivations, but probably because the Zebedee family had gotten their bid for power in first.
Now all of the Twelve had been with Jesus for some time, for they were drawing near to Jerusalem; and Jesus had just proclaimed for the third and last time his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the passage, Jesus asks James and John whether they can drink his cup and they boldly declare, We can. Isnt the eagerness of youth amazing! This share in his Passion, Jesus assures them they will get, but he cannot promise them where they will sit in Gods Kingdom, for even He as Son, submits to the heavenly Father in this regard.
Then, Jesus offers them a vision different than that proffered by the world of power politics; it is one of humility and service: Outside, people lord it over one another; their great ones are tyrants over them. But this is not the way it will be among you: instead, whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you, must be your slave.
All of this description of life as it should be in the church goes back to the person of the founder, to our Lord himself, the Son of Man: Just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, that is to set many people freeto help them break away from the tyranny of other models of conduct and relationships.
Jesus exercises great patience with his disciples, just as he does with us in our struggles to embrace his teaching on riches and honors; marriage, divorce and the family; humility and serviceall of which are amply illustrated in the New Testament. He guides us through the teachings of his church which, being divinely guided, correctly and clearly interpret his message for the people of today. And this is the case not only with the topics he dealt with, but with those as well found in the many areas of life and human nature, not spelled out by the Scriptures, but which the magisterium addresses in timely fashion: issues such as those of development, peace and the environment and other topical questions such as the life issuesabortion, embryonic stem cell research, the control of diseases and the legitimacy of vaccination programs, etc.
Still, Christian disciples, like the apostles being taught by their Lord, require encouragement to embrace the implications of following a crucified redeemer, whose death and resurrection, offering new life, alone sets us free. There are aspects of our lives where we would prefer that the gospel call did not enter, or not yet at any rate.
Perhaps a story, somewhat extreme, might help us grasp the task at hand for us to be totally converted to the way of the Lord Jesus. Thomas Arnold in his book The Christian Life, published in 1856not long after this diocese was foundedwrote:
There is a story told that, in times and countries where there prevailed the deepest ignorance, some who came to be baptized into the faith of Christ, converted from the heathen state, not in reality but only in name, were accustomed to leave their right arm unbaptized, with the notion that this arm, not being pledged to Christs service, might wreak upon their enemies those works of hatred and revenge which in baptism they had promised to renounce.
This is a great image: these warriors going into the waters of baptism with their arms held high&holding back something of their life from being immersed in God. Eminently practical thiswhy surrender that dimension of their lifethat of being a warriorwhose logic seemed undone by the gospel. How could a warriors drive to win ever fit into the demand to surrender to God?
A good story and I would suggest it contains a great message of challenge to me and to you, to all of us.
The priest who shared the quotation and story with me confessed that, in his own case, it had been relatively easy for him to tithe as long as he was making the parish priests salary, but that tithing became much more demanding when he was hired at the university and moved into a new salary bracket. He asked us to imagine his right hand raised on high, not being baptized, while he held his wallet in his hand!
Each of us could, no doubt, discover an area in our following of Jesus that still is incomplete, where we have not yet completely surrendered to the author of life, the one who proclaims good news to those held in bondage and declares that the purpose of his coming among us was to set us free from every form of slavery, for he is the Saviour and our redeemer, the Lord who offers us, even right here in this Eucharist today, a foretaste of the eternal life we will one day experience completely in the Kingdom of heaven.
At the close of my walk, I noticed people leaving Notre-Dame Basilica at the close of the Sunday evening Mass. Several people recognized me and introduced me to their neighbours: the warmth of Ottawas welcome to their new shepherd was on!
This basilica church is called a cathedral because it contains the cathedra, the seat of teaching, which the bishop occupies as a successor of the apostlesunited with the successor of Peter in Rome and all the orthodox or right-teaching bishops of the world in communion with himnot for any personal glory or honour but to ensure that the teaching of Jesus remains alive to feed the sheep in our midst, to challenge, to upset, and to console the sheep of Christs pasture.
I ask you to pray with me that this portion of the Lords vineyard, the dynamics and living church of Ottawamanifest not just in this cathedral but in all the parish churches, missions and oratories within its territorywill always see itself as a servant church. May it be a church in which the contemporary followers of Jesus struggle, week-in and week-out, to be converted by the manner of life and the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we will experience as fulfilled among us the closing words of the selection from the prophet Isaiah, that Gods everlasting covenant abides with us and that all who see us will confess that we are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
God bless you all!