Here is the Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley from the Priestly Ordination of Fr Josh Moir at Our Lady & St Andrew’s, Galashiels, 28 June.
My dear friends, a very warm welcome to our Archdiocese and to Galashiels, as we gather for the Ordination to the priesthood of your relative and friend, Josh.
For the second year in a row, I am very pleased to be able to celebrate a priestly ordination here, in Our Lady & St Andrew’s. And I am again in debt to Fr Andrew Kingham, and to all in the parish who have prepared both the sacred and the social parts of our celebration this evening.
We also gather again around the Feast of the great Apostles of the Roman Church, Saints Peter and Paul. In their different ways, Peter and Paul helped to found a church in Rome that held on through extremely difficult times with exemplary faith and courage. And we here look with pride to what they achieved, because we too are sons and daughters of the Church of Rome.
Those first Roman Christians buried their dead in the now famous catacombs, and they occasionally had to hide there from the authorities when the state became intolerant of Christianity, and it became dangerous simply to hold the tenets of our faith.
To this day, the catacombs show us traces of the faith and love of our ancient brothers and sisters, in monuments, inscriptions and even frescoes that have survived. And, among the images that have come down to us from those dark times is one of the Good Shepherd, seen as a beardless Roman youth, carrying a lamb on his shoulders.
For us, as a version of the Good Shepherd, it’s a little unusual, but it’s a beautiful, serene, confidence-inspiring image.
It’s also interesting to compare it, created by persecuted Christians, with the Psalm that inspires it. In Psalm 22/23, we see, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want… The Lord gives me repose; he leads me to green pastures, at restful waters, he gives me repose…[and] even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.
These were surely words that those Christians clung to for dear life, as they were being tried and executed for simply believing what you and I believe quietly these days.
The Psalm concludes, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever”. This Psalm, remembered in such a context, and the peaceful image of the Good Shepherd with the lamb safely over his shoulders, stands in such contrast to what was happening to them, that we are struck by their confidence in God’s mercy in the teeth of the world’s intolerance, aggression and cruelty.
Now, this image of the Good Shepherd, young, humble, brave, constant, is one that we continue look to, as another generation aspires to the priesthood. Our seminarians are, for the most part, younger men, taken from among their kin and their peers, and set aside for sacred duties.
Our sacred ministers aren’t sacred in themselves; but they must wish, and strive, to be worthy of what they approach, and what will be their daily bread for the rest of their lives. And we, in our turn, must support them and encourage them to be faithful to the things of God.
We are all of us able to love and respect what is sacred. And I believe that what the young people today wish from the Church and from our example is a renewed and profound sense of the sacred. They live in the world; they are familiar with its glamour; and yet they are also drawn to what is holy.
They cannot escape living in this messy, complicated reality, but they are drawn to God’s presence; and so the solution is to propose a life that is close to people, while stepping aside from the world from time to time, to go to our private room, to be still before the Lord, to love being in His presence, and, from a store of faith and experience, draw others from the world and towards Christ.
This is something all Christians should do, but our sacred ministers do it with a consecration that sets them apart for it, not for their own sake, but on behalf of us all.
Priests are therefore set aside to intercede for us before God, especially in the Eucharist, by means of their configuration to Christ on the Cross, the great mediator between God and humanity, our High Priest, our Good Shepherd.
Josh, we hope and pray that you too will learn to imitate the Good Shepherd as you mature in the priesthood. Be a good and simple pastor of souls, close to your people, willing to go the extra mile, gently bringing them back, and kindly looking out for them, in season and out of season.
You will be set apart from now on, but in a way that also means being approachable, open, and charitable.
Learn to be good with the Lord’s goodness, and patient with His patience. Ask for the Lord’s grace, for yourself and for others. And let Lord’s grace working in you be met by your own willingness, to strive always to be worthy of what is being entrusted to you today.
Be a good shepherd to all after the Lord’s own heart. And may the Lord’s goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life. Amen.