SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
ORDINATION OF A BISHOP: The Most Reverend James Vann Johnston, Jr., D.D., J.C.L., Sixth Bishop of Springfield Cape Girardeau
1. How fitting that the consecration of our new Bishop of Springfield Cape Girardeau should take place on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the day on which we celebrate the beginning of our Lord’s work of salvation, for which the Bishop is totally consecrated as a true shepherd of the flock, after the Heart of our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Today , we celebrate the truth that God the Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, took our human nature, took a human heart, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Today, she, who alone among us is “full of grace,” conceived in her immaculate womb “the Son of the Most High” through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (Gospel).
2. We celebrate the truth of the Incarnation which is redemptive, that is, inseparably united to the truth of the Redemption. We celebrate the truth which is divine love, the truth that God the Son became man for one only purpose, namely, to offer His Body in sacrifice, so that He might accomplish God the Father’s unchanging will to save us from our sins and their most evil fruit, eternal death. So intimately and essentially connected are the Incarnation and the Redemption, that, according to an ancient tradition of the Church, the calendar date of Good Friday, of our Lord’s death on the Cross, is March 25th, the same date on which He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. We also know that, in the Churches of the Byzantine Rite, when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, the full liturgical rites of both are celebrated because of the intimate and essential relationship of the mysteries celebrated (cf. John Saward, The Mysteries of March: Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Incarnation and Easter, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990, p. xv).
3. Today, God the Father fulfilled His word, given to us through the Prophet Isaiah. Today, the Virgin conceived the Son whose name is Emmanuel because, in Him, “God is with us!” (Reading I). The truth of the Redemptive Incarnation is expressed for us in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews:
By this “will” [that is, the will of the Father, accomplished by the Son], we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all (Reading II).
Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, permitting His Most Sacred Heart to be pierced by the Roman soldier’s spear, so that He might draw all men to Himself, draw all human hearts to His glorious pierced Heart, the source of the immeasurable and unceasing outpouring of the mercy and love of God the Father upon us in the Church. In the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Christ invites us to place our hearts into His glorious pierced Heart, in order that our hearts may be healed, refreshed and strengthened with the Heavenly Medicine and Food of His Body given up for us and His Blood poured out for us.
4. By the sending of His only begotten Son in our human nature, God the Father has given us the promised shepherd after His own Heart (cf. Jer 3:15). He, in fact, as He promised, has come to dwell with us and to be our shepherd always (cf. Ez 34:1 16). On the day on which God the Son took a human heart to be our shepherd always, we celebrate the Sacrament of Ordination in the Episcopal Order, by which Christ gives Himself to us in a new shepherd, after His own Heart, in whom He Himself will teach, sanctify and govern His flock in the chosen portion of the Father’s vineyard, which is the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau. The Rite of Episcopal Ordination takes us back to the Lord’s Supper, when our Lord Jesus consecrated the Apostles as the first Bishops of the Church which He was to bring to life from His pierced Side.
5. Our hearts and minds travel mystically along an unbroken line of succession from Christ’ s consecration of the Apostles at the Last Supper to the consecration of our new Bishop during the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Lord’s Supper. Traveling along the line of succession of apostolic ministry in Southern Missouri, we gratefully recall to mind Father Sebastian Louis Meurin and Father Pierre Gibault, the earliest co workers with the Bishops in the area; the saintly Bishop Joseph Rosati of the Congregation of the Mission, the First Bishop of Saint Louis; and Bishop John Joseph Hogan who first labored as a priest in Southern Missouri before becoming Bishop of Saint Joseph and, then, of Kansas City which included several counties of what is now the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau. Our hearts are filled with particular gratitude for the Bishops who have served the Diocese, since it was established in 1956 by the Servant of God Pope Pius XII. I cannot fail to recall the episcopal consecration of the now Cardinal William Baum as the Third Bishop of Springfield Cape Girardeau, by my predecessor Cardinal John Carberry, on April 6, 1970, which was also the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation. I had the pleasure of speaking with Cardinal Baum by telephone, during the past week. He asked me to express both his deep regret that his health does not permit him to be with us today and his heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to our new Bishop and his beloved flock. Today, in a most special way, we thank God for Bishop John Leibrecht who has given the Good Shepherd’s care to the flock in the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau, for nearly twenty four complete years, since his episcopal consecration on December 12, 1984. As we ordain our new Bishop, we ask God to bless abundantly Bishop Leibrecht in the coming years.
6. Recalling the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders at work in the Apostles and in the first missionaries to our region, and witnessing the conferral of the grace in the ordination of our new Bishop, let us pray for the New Evangelization of the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau, that the faithful of Southern Missouri, under the care and with the guidance of their shepherd, may teach, celebrate and live our Catholic faith with new enthusiasm and new energy, with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples and of the first Catholics who established the Church in what is now the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau. Let us ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the title of her particular affection for her children of America. She, who is the Mother of America and the Star of the New Evangelization, will not fail to bring us and our intentions to her Divine Son, while she gives us the maternal counsel: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5), so that His glory may be manifested in our midst, as it was manifested, for the first time, at the Wedding Feast at Cana.
7. We have reflected upon the great mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation which we celebrate today, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, and how it illuminates the wonderful sign of the Redeemer’s abiding presence with us in the Church, which we are about to witness in the ordination of a new shepherd of the flock. Let us now reflect upon the sacred rite of the Ordination of the Most Reverend James Vann Johnston, Jr., the Sixth Bishop of Springfield Cape Girardeau.
To the congregation
8. [Beloved, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which our brother is about to be raised. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, in turn sent twelve Apostles into the world. They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel, and to sanctify and govern all the peoples gathered into one flock. Moreover, so that this office might remain to the end of time, the Apostles chose helpers for themselves. Through the laying on of hands, by which the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, they handed on to them the gift of the Holy Spirit which they had received from Christ. In that way, the tradition handed down from the beginning through the unbroken succession of Bishops is preserved from generation to generation, and the work of the Savior continues on and grows even to our times.]
9. [In the Bishop surrounded by his priests, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, having become High Priest for ever, is present among you. For, through the ministry of the Bishop, Christ Himself never fails to proclaim the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments of faith to those who believe. Through the Bishop’s exercise of his duty as father, Christ Himself adds new members to His Body. Through the Bishop’s wisdom and prudence, it is Christ Himself Who leads you in your earthly pilgrimage toward eternal happiness.]
10. [Gladly and gratefully, therefore, welcome our brother whom we, the Bishops, now admit into our college by the laying on of hands. Revere him as a minister of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. He has been entrusted with the task of bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel, and with the ministry of the Spirit and of justice. Remember the words Christ spoke to the Apostles: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”] Pray daily for your Bishop and, by the respect and esteem in which you hold his apostolic office, be a source of encouragement and comfort to him, and give strong witness to the Catholic faith in your local communities.
11. As we thank God for the gift of a new Bishop, let us not fail to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, Successor of Saint Peter, “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, “On the Church,” 21 November 1964, n. 23a). The occasion of the ordination of a new Bishop is a time for us to reflect upon the great gift of the unity and catholicity of the Church, coming to life from and living from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus.
To the Bishop elect
12. [And now, dear brother, who have been chosen by the Lord, consider that you are chosen from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. The title of Bishop is one of service, not of honor, and therefore a Bishop should strive to benefit others rather than lord it over them. Such is the precept of the Master: the greater should behave as the least and the ruler as the servant. Preach the word in season and out of season; reprove with all patience and sound teaching. As you pray and offer sacrifice for the people committed to your care, devote yourself wholeheartedly to seeking every kind of grace for them from the fullness of Christ’s holiness.] May the miter which you, as Bishop, wear during the celebration of sacred rites be a sign of the holiness of life, to which we are all called in the Church and in which you are to lead your people, above all, by the celebration of the Sacraments. Let your careful and reverent celebration of the sacred rites be a model and inspiration, so that the saving action of Christ in our midst may be more clearly visible to all in the entire Diocese.
13. [In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator, and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. As one chosen by the Father to rule over His family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, Who knows His sheep and is known by them, and Who did not hesitate to lay down His life for them.] In a society which has grown so pervasively secular and forgetful of God, your teaching and governance will be counter cultural, and will encounter resistance and even rejection. Surely, you will suffer for teaching the truth of the faith and for applying the discipline required for the practice of the faith. Trust that what you suffer in doing God’s will for you and the Church will bring countless graces to the flock in your care and to the whole Body of Christ. Never give way to doubt and discouragement. By your steadfast obedience to the teaching and discipline of Christ in the Church, you will unite your flock to Him Who alone is the source of their joy and peace.
14. May the cathedra or Bishop’s seat, which gives the name to the chief and mother church of every diocese, symbolize for you and all of the faithful your fundamental responsibility to teach the faith and to safeguard the integrity of the faith and of its practice. As Chief Teacher of the Faith, guide and direct all who are catechists, so that the greatest treasure which is our may be handed on faithfully, in all its richness, to succeeding generations. Recall the wise counsel of Saint Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 4:1 5), and the admonition of Saint Gregory the Great, inspired by his reading of the Prophet Isaiah and the Parable of the Good Shepherd:
The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence and profitable in speech, lest he utter what should be kept secret, or keep secret what should be uttered. For just as incautious speech leads men into error, so, too, unseasonable silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. Often, indeed, incautious rulers, being afraid of losing human favour, fear to speak freely of what is right, and, in the words of the Truth, do not exercise the zeal of shepherds caring for the flock, but serve the role of mercenaries; for when the wolf appears, they flee and hide themselves in silence. Wherefore, the Lord reproves them through the Prophet, saying: They are all dumb dogs, not able to bark (Saint Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, tr. Henry Davis, S.J., New York: Newman Press, 1950, 1978, Part II, Chapter 4, pp. 51 52).
By your tireless care to be a loyal and selfless teacher of the faith, you will draw all to Him Whose glorious pierced Heart never ceases to pour out upon souls the truth and love of God the Father.
15. [With the charity of a father and brother, love all whom God places in your care, especially the priests and deacons, your co workers in the ministry of Christ, but also the poor and the weak, immigrants and strangers. Exhort the faithful to work with you in your apostolic labor; do not refuse to listen willingly to them.] May the Bishop’s ring which symbolizes your oneness with Christ, the Bridegroom, in His love of His Bride, the Church, be a constant reminder of the pastoral charity which must animate your entire ministry.
16. It is only through the vocation and mission of priests, your co workers, that you will be able to exercise pastoral charity for the numerous flock, living in so large a territory, all of whom have been entrusted to your care. Never forget that your first duty, after praying for the flock, is to provide for them good, faithful and generous priests. Be diligent in your care of priests, for whom you are both brother and father in Christ. Accompany the seminarians of the Diocese, so that they may persevere in responding to God’s call with all their heart. Work to provide ever more effective helps for young men whom our Lord is calling to the priesthood, so that they may hear His call and courageously embrace it.
17. Be attentive to guide God’s people in the way of justice which leads to lasting peace. Foster always the respect for all human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, especially the life of our unborn brothers and sisters, and of our brothers and sisters who are burdened by special needs, serious illness or advanced age. Safeguard the integrity of the marital union and of human procreation. Your apostolic teaching and guidance will inspire and strengthen all of the faithful in the transformation of the culture of violence and death into a civilization of life and divine love. Lead the flock in solidarity with those who suffer injustices in our society, especially the migrant and refugee, and be, for them, the sign of God’ s unfailing mercy and love. Help those in your pastoral care to grow in understanding our solemn responsibility to be good stewards of God’s manifold gifts. May the crozier represent your firm and loving care of all the flock, without boundary.
18. [Never relax your concern for those who are not yet gathered into the one fold of Christ; they too are entrusted to you in the Lord. Never forget that you are joined to the College of Bishops in the Catholic Church made one by the bond of charity, and therefore you should have a constant concern for all the Churches and gladly come to the support of Churches in need.] Be an example of the hope of our lord Jesus Christ, expressed in His prayer to the Father, before entering upon His Passion: “[T]hat they may all be one” (Jn 17:21) (cf. Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism 25 March 1993, n. 9). Speak with love the truth handed down to us in the Church, which alone heals divisions. In an area in which many are not members of the Church, you will be an example of the apostolate of Christian unity, speaking with love the truth handed down to us in the Church, and taking care that the splendor of that truth be visible in prayer and worship, and in the faithful teaching and practice of the law of Christ, drawing all into one in Christ.
19. [And so, keep watch over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit appoints you to govern the Church of God: in the name of the Father Whose image you represent in the Church; and in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, whose office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd you will discharge; and in the name of the Holy Spirit Who gives life to the Church of Christ and by His power strengthens us in our weakness.] May you so carry out your episcopal ministry that, when you have reached the fullness of the days of your earthly pilgrimage, Christ the Good Shepherd will welcome you, His good and faithful apostle , into the everlasting happiness of Heaven. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization; Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church; Saint James the Greater, your patron saint; and Pope Saint Pius X and Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, patron saints of the Diocese of Springfield Cape Girardeau, intercede for you, that you may be a good, faithful and generous shepherd after the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.
The parts of the homily in brackets are taken from: “Chapter I: Ordination of a Bishop,” in Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, Second Typical Edition, from The Roman Pontifical as renewed by the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, published by authority of Pope Paul VI, and further revised at the direction of Pope John Paul II, Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003, pp. 16 18, n. 39.