Renewed Not From Above But From Within

Author: Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C.

Fr Kevin Grove, CSC 2010 Ordination

Fr. Kevin Grove, CSC, has graciously shared his homily from Lucernarium this evening, given before the ordinandi and their assembled family, friends, and confreres in Holy Cross

To the many family and friends of Adam and Pat, let me extend the warmest of welcomes on behalf of Holy Cross to all of you. To my brothers, Pat and Adam, the rest of us are here tonight to support you, to bless you, and most importantly to pray for you. For our great joy is that tomorrow afternoon our Lord will reshape the rest of your lives.

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Now, in addition to their very many pastoral talents, it will not be news to any of you that Patrick Reidy and Adam Booth—though they are too humble to admit it—have the combined intellects that if they were translated into energy, could probably power a nuclear submarine. And in a move that I attribute to that, they have picked a reading for you and me tonight, the heart of the Letter to the Hebrews, that is one of the most compact and dense theological passages in all of the New Testament.  Well, brothers, you asked for it. So, we are going to roll up our sleeves and dig right in because God is leading all of us, not just Pat and Adam, somewhere through this reading—he’s leading us straight into ordinations.

You see, we get this one sort of funny sounding line about Jesus, “In the days when he was in the flesh,” our reading says, “he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard.” That line is like a flashback to this time last week, to Good Friday. For on that day, Christ cried out to God in the feeling of complete abandonment. Everything was a mess; everything was dark; his friends had fled. 

But when Christ cries out in abandonment and commends his spirit to God, he has never stopped being the creator of the universe. Folks, our God came to renew us not from above but from within—the flesh of our flesh and the bone of our bone.  On that day last week he reminded us that he took up more than our skin—he’s taken up our whole life, and our death, and our voice. He cried out loud in a human voice—Adam’s, Eve’s, yours and mine.  And at that lowest moment, suffering, innocent, doomed to die, it is not a voice from heaven that speaks, but the voice of God-made-man. And we believe that a most marvelous exchange happens. Christ—who was still God—speaks in our flesh, in our words, so that we might speak in his. 

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And from that darkest moment the cross became hope. And through it every mystery of human life received expression in Christ—from the height of baptismal joy, to the mercy of confession, to the Eucharist itself. We don’t utter these things alone, Christ comes so close to us that he speaks in us, and cries in us, and moves in us, and lives in us, and only so that we might slowly learn to speak and cry and move and live in him.  And when we one day die and breathe our last…yes…that too will be in him. He’s closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

My friends, that is what Adam and Pat will do for us as priests. Their very lives will now be to speak—in sacraments, in sermons, and on the streets. And we set them apart and anoint them for this so that they might speak not their own words, but that they might speak Christ’s words as a head does for a body. Don’t make this complicated at all. It isn’t. It is like when a foot gets stepped on in a crowded room and the tongue cries out, “You are stepping on me.” The tongue was not crushed; the foot does not speak. Nonetheless, the unity of tongue and foot within the body allows the tongue to say “me” for both. So you, Adam and Pat, will speak about us all: as Christ. You will remind us all that Christ is now speaking redemption into our brokenness, and is now speaking life into our very bodies.  You will remind all of us that we are worth so great a redeemer because we are part of him. Brothers, the Scripture you picked for this night was right on…it makes clear the promise of who we are becoming. And Pat and Adam, you are to speak and bring Christ’s voice—his mercy and his hope—to everyplace his body is—not only your students and your parishioners, but the poor, the widow, the orphan, believer and the unbeliever, and every sinner and saint in between.  You will remind us every time you say Mass, forgive sins, baptize, and bury, that Christ our head is still speaking in us his body; he is drawing us along, nurturing, and renewing that deep down image of the divine in us all. 

Laying Prostrate for the Litany of the Saints

I want to close with a posture.  Tomorrow Patrick and Adam will lie down flat on their faces on the stone basilica floor as you and I pray over them, invoking the mercy of our Lord, and the intercession of our Lady, and all of the saints of the heavenly host.  Earth and the heavens will be joined together in prayer—Pat and Adam—that God will give you words, his Word, in order that you will speak in us.  This posture of your lying facing the earth is symbolic for the rest of your lives.  You don’t lie upward so as to peer off into the heavens.  Your disposition as priests—from this moment onward, from your first Mass to your last—is with your lips and your love toward the earth itself, and all who walk upon it.  Our Church entrusts you to Christ so that wherever you find yourself—you as priests will be sincere speakers of wholeness and hope.  You’ll love and you’ll see that all of us as God’s people are broken but wonderfully made, sinful yet most worth redeeming, doubting but hard-wired for faith, hardened yet pining for love.  You’ll look at and love God’s people as his head to his body.  For while you are here, for the rest of your days, you’ll speak Christ’s words in us so that we will learn to speak our words in him, to live our lives in him, to die in him, and to know one day our resurrection in him. 

God has given you, Pat and Adam, the vocation of leading us all to become the Christ whom we receive and be the Christ who we are.  We, your friends and your family are not merely supporters and fans.  We set you apart because we too need the words you will speak and the mercy you will give.  Pat and Adam, dare for the rest of your lives to speak, to live, to bring—in a word to make real—so great a Hope.

Fr Kevin Grove, CSC

Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C., professed final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 30, 2009, and then was ordained to the priesthood on April 10, 2010. After two years in parish ministry, he won one of the prestigious Gates Scholarships and went into doctoral studies in theology at Cambridge University. He is one of over a dozen Holy Cross priests in the United States Province pursuing advanced degrees to better serve as educators in the faith. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross in education, as well as hear from some of the other Holy Cross priests in advanced studies.

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