Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

Published: May 21, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at a Mass to celebrate the 40th anniversary of priestly ordination of Msgr. Francis I. Malone at Christ the King Church in Little Rock on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Bishop Taylor

Of all the parishes in the Diocese of Little Rock, your parish of Christ the King has been by far the most successful promoter of vocations to the priesthood of any parish in our diocese during my nine years so far as your bishop.

This coming Wednesday we will ordain three of our seven new transitional deacons here at Christ the King (all three of whom are from your parish: Patrick Friend, Joseph de Orbegozo and Stephen Elser). And this Saturday we will ordain five new priests right here at Christ the King (and one of these is from your parish: Stephen Hart).

So I think it is highly fitting that this great week of priesthood here at Christ the King should begin with this celebration of the 40th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Msgr. Francis I. Malone, your pastor and one of the most dedicated promoters of the priesthood that I have ever met.

But no parish can have nine current seminarians without the strong witness of a pastor who loves his priesthood and wants other young men to share in the joy that he has found in serving God's people as a priest.

I know he gets a lot of support in this effort from you, his parishioners: the Serra Club, the vocations chalice program, eucharistic adoration, all those who promote vocations in your school and so on.

But no parish can have nine current seminarians without the strong witness of a pastor who loves his priesthood and wants other young men to share in the joy that he has found in serving God's people as a priest.

Back in February — three months ago — Msgr. Malone sent me a message specifically asking me not to make him the focus of my homily today, even though this is his anniversary. He wrote: "I have a special request about the primary message of the day, that of an emphasis on the priesthood, rather than on me. You have always been so complimentary of me, for which I am grateful, especially since those praises have been undeserved."

He's being Irish here ... every word of praise I have ever spoken is much deserved and falls short of the reality of just how much I appreciate him and admire him.

But anyway, he continues: "Years ago (about 50 or so) my uncle wanted me to know that great things would happen in my life as a priest, and that wonderful people would come into my life, but never to forget that the common denominator is the priesthood, and that without it, I would not have the blessings I was going to receive.

"How true he was. So I want the day to be one in which (the focus is on) the gift of priesthood, how the Lord has blessed our parish and diocesan church, and how he uses the imperfect to do his work.That would mean everything to me."

These beautiful words give eloquent witness to the reason why the Lord continues to bless the Church — and your parish — so abundantly through his priests. Msgr. Malone for sure, and God willing, those whom we will ordain to the diaconate on Wednesday and to the priesthood on Saturday.

In today's Gospel Jesus connects love with obedience: "If you love me, keep my commandments" and while this applies to all Christians, we see this clearly at every ordination to the priesthood. Our promise of obedience in that ceremony is an expression of our love for the Lord and his Church, and is modeled on Jesus' obedience of his heavenly Father all the way to Calvary, the supreme expression of self-sacrificing love.

But knowing that we are weak, Jesus doesn't leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone — or with the challenges of ordained ministry, in the case of us who are priests.

He promises to send us another "paraclete" — the Holy Spirit — at Pentecost, and then by extension also in every sacrament through which we receive God's grace, including obviously the sacrament of ordination.

The word paraclete is impossible to translate. It means helper, comforter, advocate, one who gives us encouragement and strength all rolled into one. What Jesus is saying is that there are things about following him that are hard for everyone, including priests, but that he will send us the Holy Spirit who will guide us as to what to do and enable us to do it.

And isn't that what we are celebrating today? But with one further detail: the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete with a capital "P," but every priest is ordained to share in that work of the Holy Spirit, in other words, that every priest is ordained to be another paraclete with a small "p," just as he was ordained to be another Christ, an "alter Christus."

Today on Msgr. Malone's 40th anniversary, we celebrate the way the Holy Spirit has used him and the other priests that you know and admire to be paracletes who bring help, comfort, encouragement and strength to the flock entrusted to their care.

Msgr. Malone, thank you for your 40 years so far of faithful priestly ministry, 40 years as another paraclete, as another Christ! May the Lord grant you — and us — many years more!