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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 20, 2015
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. It is based on these readings: Isaiah 55:8-11; Psalms 19; 1 John 4:7-10; and John 15:9-17.
Norman, your path to this moment is the most remarkable of anyone I have ever ordained. A married man, a Baptist missionary in Brazil presumably trying to convert Catholics away from the faith, only to become a convert to Catholicism yourself ... all the while retaining a great love and appreciation for the faith in which you were formed as a Baptist, and especially for the great gift of coming to know Jesus in the family and church in which you were raised, and which had sent you to Brazil as a missionary and supported you there.
But you also had the integrity to listen to Jesus speaking in your heart and the courage to follow where he was leading you, as difficult as that was, humanly speaking. You were able to do this because you had experienced Jesus' love, about which he speaks so eloquently in the Gospel reading you have chosen for your ordination: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love."
This love, which so characterizes the way you treat people, served to deepen your relationship with Laura, and together you journeyed into uncharted waters. Switching from being a Baptist prison chaplain to a lay Catholic prison chaplain. Teaching at St. Joseph School in Pine Bluff. Applying for the permanent deacon program and then being told that having been a Baptist minister, you could become a married Catholic priest.
And you will do this not just with words, but also by your way of life and the way you treat others — with dignity and respect, regardless of any issues they may be facing.
Uprooting both of your lives and moving to St. Meinrad, Laura working in the kitchen, both of you living in town, but a seminarian like all the rest, and yet unlike all the rest: You missed the profession of faith and oath of fidelity ceremony because you were still waiting (patiently and humbly) for permission from Rome, which came about a month later.
A journey of faith like none other. A journey of love in which Laura also shares. And very soon you will be sent forth from this ceremony to share this love with others, first as an ordained deacon and then in one year's time, as an ordained priest of Jesus Christ.
So I find it very significant that the readings you chose for your ordination are all about love. As a deacon you will be preaching, helping people to come to know Jesus and understand his teachings, and to do this effectively, your first task will be to kindle love for God in your hearers and love for others, since in our second reading John writes: "Whoever is without love does not know God."
And you will do this not just with words, but also by your way of life and the way you treat others — with dignity and respect, regardless of any issues they may be facing. And in this way, through you, they will come to know Jesus as he truly is and thereby find life, for as John writes: "In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him."
So Norman, you've come to "lay down your life for your friends" like Jesus did for you. He chooses you — in the words of today's Gospel — and appoints you to "go and bear fruit that will remain!"