Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., delivered the following homily June 5 during the Ordination to the Priesthood of Deacon Rjoy Ballacillo in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Deacon Ballacillo, consider the life and mission you are about to undertake by the laying on of my hands as Successor to the Apostles and by the consecratory prayer as a gift. Use it well.

The gift of priesthood is given to you by God and by the Church for your own sanctification and for the sanctification of the people of God to whom you, in turn, will be given by God and by the Church, by me as your Bishop.

You were chosen for this gift, set apart from all else that you could have been in this world, because God wanted YOU to receive this gift. Believe that with every fiber of your being: with the conviction of your mind; with the beating of your heart; with the depth of your soul, with the sweat of your brow. The words that the Church addresses to you today will make that abundantly clear to you ... and to us all.  Listen to them and make them your own, for they, too, are themselves a gift to guide all you will do.

The gift you receive this day will bring the God of heaven and earth to the altar, to bread and wine at your hands; will guide the consciences of those who listen to your words and see your example; will make believers of those who doubt and strengthen the faith of those who do believe; will forgive the sins of those who fail; will heal the sick and, when their hour has come, will lead them to heaven’s door; will teach others to pray and seek holiness. The gift you receive this day will reveal the truth of God’s Word through what you preach; will show mercy to those who have neither earned nor deserve it; will restore hope and justice to those who are desperate and forlorn; will lead you to counsel, to seek and to save the lost; will bring light to their dark places; will turn time into eternity as you mirror the face, the heart of Christ, who came to serve and not to be served. All this you will do, even when you stumble along the way, because of the gift you receive this day in love – a gift you humbly, unworthily accept as those of us, your brothers, have accepted it before you – only to give it away … from the Cross, from the Empty Tomb.

My beloved son, you cannot hope to be a good priest if you do not love Jesus Christ above all else. And you cannot love him if you do not know him. And you cannot know him if you do not make time for him in your life: reading his word, speaking to him, listening to him. Strive to be holy.

And here is the mystery of the priesthood. Why you? Why any of us? The Scriptures say “Before you were born, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5)” ... yes, for a gift; for a mystery; for a priesthood that invites us, my brother priests and you, the newest among us: to “know what you are doing and to imitate what you handle.” 

Together, then, we who have been ordained priests and you who are about to be, let us listen now to the voice of the Church, “ever ancient, ever new” (St. Augustine, “Confessions”).