"Be shepherds who have their hearts in God. Be his presence in the community."
DOMUS GALILAEAE - The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has a new priest and four new deacons. On the feast of St. Matthew, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa ordained the new ministers formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Galilee.
"May you be the Jerusalem, the place of the Lord's presence. Make him present in the Christian community. With your hearts united to Christ, always oriented towards God, be witnesses and proclaimers of salvation." This was the exhortation, and at the same time the wish, of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem to the five new ministers he ordained: one priest and four deacons of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Galilee. The solemn ordination rite was celebrated within the frame of the feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist: that is to say, the encounter with Christ that changes the heart, that transforms sin into an experience and a proclamation of salvation, followed by a conversion that hones us so as to always be witnesses of the Lord.
The new presbyter is Samuel Francisco Tobar Maida, a Salvadoran, 34 years old, and the 11th of 12 children, who served as a deacon in the parish of Rameh.
The deacons instead were Samuel Costanzo and Paolo Sepich both 29 years old and from Rome; even although Paolo grew up in Israel from an early age. In fact, his family left Italy to be missionaries in this land. Furthermore, there were Mauricio Alberto De La Cruz Natera, 33, from Colombia, and Juan José Fernández Orbe, 29, from Ecuador, whom is also the son of a family in a mission for the Neocatechumenal Way.
A large assembly of faithful and some religious gathered in prayer around them and with them. They came from different parts of the Holy Land - where these young men have served or been on mission. Alongside them were the brothers of the Neocatechumenal communities in which these brothers are completing their journey of faith, and lastly, the international community of Domus Galilaeae. The families of the candidates and their communities of origin, on the other hand, were connected through the internet from Italy, El Salvador, Colombia, and Ecuador: due to the restrictions in force because of the pandemic, it was not possible for them to enter the country.
First and foremost, Archbishop Pizzaballa focused in his homily on a passage from the first reading, taken from the prophet Jeremiah: "I will give you shepherds according to my heart," pointing out that, like all realities, the heart always needs to be cared for, and "especially for priests, it is important to have their heart in God”. For this reason, "‘I will give you shepherds according to my heart' means trying to unite one's own heart - we shepherds - to the heart of God. This requires patience, a continuous, lifelong work on oneself. Never take anything for granted, because there is no middle ground: when you leave, you return to the stubbornness of the wicked heart, according to Jeremiah." On the other hand, "if your heart is in God, then you will also know how to be good shepherds for the flock entrusted to you, always: if your heart is dedicated, oriented to Him, with the consciousness always of being in front of Him. Otherwise, you will lead the flock wherever your heart goes. More than the words you say, the heart with which you love will count," he summarized incisively.
A bold thing is then said in the passage from Jeremiah, the Patriarch remarked that "There will be no more ark, for the presence of the Lord shall be in Jerusalem. Thus, you belong to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is first and foremost our Church, but it is also the image of the Church. Therefore, you will have to make sure that the community is the place of the Lord's presence, always. You will have to be a bit of Jerusalem. You will have many things to do... it doesn't matter. What matters is that you yourselves know how to be a place of the Lord's presence. The first need to respond to is precisely this: to make the Lord present in the midst of the community".
Matthew the publican is more than a sinner, continued the Patriarch commenting on the Gospel: "Matthew, this man hated by all, as he is called gets up, changes his life radically, and that sin becomes an announcement of salvation, in his life. So must it be for you. You must become heralds of salvation for each of the people whom the Lord will bring to you."
This call and reality were visually expressed in the rite of the dressing of the diaconal robes, and then of the priestly robe (the presbyter Samuel Tobar was clothed in the chasuble by the parish priest of Rameh, Fr. Aktham Hijazin): when the ministers, standing with their arms outstretched in the form of a cross, turned towards the people who cheered them on with heartfelt applause. Certainly excited, but above all with their radiant faces, they conveyed this light and joy to the assembly. "When we meet the Lord, the first experience is that of our sin, but this is followed by the consciousness of the Lord: that He has entered into my sin, transforming it into the consciousness of the greatness of His presence among us," Msgr. Pizzaballa had observed while reflecting on St. Matthew. "Well then, you are to become ministers of God's mercy. This is the mission of the church: not only to condemn sin, but to say that there is something greater, of which we have experienced and which we want to communicate."
"If you will therefore be able to unite your heart to the heart of Christ, always oriented to God, if you will have truly made the experience of salvation that touched your heart, changed it, then you will also be able to be worthy deacons and priests, heralds and witnesses of God's mercy, for you and for the world," the Patriarch concluded.
At the end of the liturgy, Msgr. Pizzaballa greeted the families with gratitude: "Unfortunately they must attend from afar, but in spirit they are here, and we are with them. We want to thank them, if you all are here today, it is thanks to them: the first gift was that of your family to the Church! I imagine your mothers wiping their tears away... well, this is also necessary!". Finally, the Patriarch expressed gratitude to those who took care of the formation of the new ministers, commenting that it is “a never too rewarding work, I know. We should thank you for your service! May the Lord continue to bless our Church."