03 Dec 2021

St. Mary’s Basilica, Sydney, 3 December 2021

Theodor Geisel—‘Dr. Seuss’ to those who grew up on his stories—was a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award winning children’s author. He composed and illustrated more than sixty children’s books, mostly in anapestic tetrameter, the preferred meter of poets like Byron. Over 600 million copies of his books were sold in his lifetime, and translated into 45 languages, including Spanish, so Mexicans and Columbians could read him. El Gato ensombrerado (The Cat in the Hat) was one of the first.His witty books influenced millions of young people and their parents: “You have ’em and I’ll amuse ’em,” he used to say.[1]

His 1972 book, Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now![2]—in Spanish Marvin K. Mooney usted por favor Ir ahora—offers an interesting parable for the Christian life, and in particular the vocation to which Anderson and Rafael are called. The story begins with Marvin standing contentedly in the middle of a circular rug, hands in pocket, obstinately refusing to budge. A big parental hand appears with a voice booming:

The time has come.

The time has come.

The time is now.

Just go. Go. GO.

I don’t care how.

Each of us is called like Marvin K. Mooney and offered salvation. But rather than standing self-sufficient and self-satisfied, ignoring everyone else, we are given God’s grace so we will GO shout the story of grace from the rooftops. As Isaiah explains in our first reading, the one anointed with the Spirit is SENT—to bring good news to the poor and do much else besides (Isa 61:1-3).

In Advent and Christmastide God directs many comings and goings. GO, Gabriel, my archangel, speak the good news to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph (Lk 1:19,26; Mt 1:20). GO, my Holy Spirit, go overshadow the Virgin (Lk 1:35). GO my beloved Son, to be conceived in her and begin your mission in the world (Lk 1:31-35; Jn 1:10-14) .[3] GO, admirable daughter, go carry your unborn Lord to Elizabeth in the hill country and to Bethlehem for the census (Lk 1:39-42; 2:1-4). GO my angel host, to announce good tidings and sing the Gloria. Go shepherds in the fields, go to the city of David to see the Saviour born this day (Lk 2:8-20). GO, magi, wise men from the East, in search of the infant king of the Jews (Mt 2:1-12). GO Joseph, go gather up mother and son and flee to safety in Egypt (Mt 2:13-15, 19-23). The opening verses of the Gospels are as action-packed as a car-chase sequence in a James Bond movie.

And on it goes. GO, God says to John the baptiser, go make straight His ways and prepare for His coming (Jn 1:6,33; 3:28). GO, the Spirit says to Jesus as He embarks on His ministry, go into the desert for your first trial (Mt 4:1). For the next three years it’s GO-GO-GO. In the synagogue Jesus makes today’s text from Isaiah His mission statement (Lk 4:16-22). He declares that He is sent: SENT to bring good news to the poor, SENT to proclaim release, SENT restore sight, SENT to proclaim God’s favour. In this text we hear the word ἀπόστολος meaning one sent, which is the root of apostle, apostolic and apostolate, and the word εὐαγγελίoν meaning good news or gospel, from which we get evangelist and evangelisation. This sense of being an apostle (sent) and going out bearing good news is at the heart of the Christian vocation and, especially of the Neocatechumenal itinerary.

There’s still more GO. Jesus doesn’t stay put anywhere for long. We hear in our Gospel tonight that He “made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News, curing all the sick” (Mt 9:35-37). Eventually He turns His face toward Jerusalem. GO the Father tells Him yet again: GO to your cross to save the world; GO down to Limbo to comfort the dead; GO up into Heaven that I might receive you back home and all those you draw after you. In Advent we look to that day when the veil between heaven and earth is at last torn down, and the Son goes forth one last time, now as universal judge. In the meantime it is the disciples who are sent out, told to GO to proclaim the message.[4]

If in the first age God the Father created the world, and in the second God the Son redeemed it, then in this, the third age, God the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Church to sanctify her members and send them forth. GO said the Spirit to Isaiah, Jesus, the apostles. GO says the Spirit to us all and especially today to Rafael and Anderson. As Cardinal Marc Ouellet puts it in his beautiful recent book Friends of the Bridegroom: “Having intimately accompanied the incarnation of Trinitarian love in the flesh of the Word, the Spirit… universalizes Christ’s Incarnation in the Eucharist while giving Christ an extended body, the Church, which is both His Body and Bride.”[5] So tonight I will call down the Holy Spirit upon the heads of these two men so they might be conduits of that Spirit to others.

In our Dr Seuss story the fatherly voice and finger are addressed not randomly but to Marvin K. Mooney in particular. Born a year apart, Anderson is a twin and Rafael a triplet: both mothers are heroes and both boys treasure happy memories of childhoods full of family and friends. For Anderson, family and the Neocatechumenal Way protected him from the drugs, alcohol, violence and delinquency in the surrounding culture that cost his brother so dearly. His parents taught him that it is better to have little and be at peace, than a lot and be racked by guilt. At a gathering with Kiko and Carmen, he heard the Kerygma and thought life as a missionary priest for the first time. He had heard God’s voice say GO.

For Rafael a maternal grandmother kept him close to God by taking him to Mass. He went through the usual adolescent rebellion but the Prodigal Son returned when an aunt assured him he was loved by God and the Way proved to him that life with God is not boring. After you’ve looked in all the wrong places and ended up bruised and hurting, the Church can be, as Pope Francis says, a field hospital for healing and hope. The Way immersed him in teaching, sacraments and community life, without which there’s no life to the full. Like Anderson he heard God’s call to GO as a missionary priest to those who struggle and show them the way to restoration and freedom.

In our story the divine voice tells Marvin K. Mooney to GO—whether by foot, skates or skis, by boat or jet, Zike Bike or Crunk Car, by mail or stilts or hot-air balloon, on the back of a cow, fish or lion—he doesn’t care how. Which means of travel our two candidates used to get to Australia I’m not sure, nor when they’ve been out on mission; but I wouldn’t put it past members of the Way to use all these methods of transport including lions! Young Marvin, however, resists all these possibilities. He pretends not to notice the call. He looks away until eventually the speech becomes a shout:

I said GO and GO I meant…
The time had come.
Marvin WENT.

So did Anderson and Rafael. When they volunteered to be missionary priests, neither could have imagined they’d spend years in formation and service in Australia. They knew little more about this strange land than that it was on the upside-down side of the world with kangaroos, an opera house and that impossible language English. I remember my own grandfather, a native Spanish speaker, telling me once after 50 years of trying to learn English: “One house, two houses. One mouse, two mice. How can anyone learn this language?” It took trust in providence and a sense of adventure for our two young men to brave the wilds down under and learn our dialect, but they say it’s been an amazing adventure with Christ.

My sons, brothers and soon fathers, Anderson and Rafael: as Jesus commanded us in the Gospel tonight so the People of God have been praying to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest, lest they be like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:35-37). You are an answer to prayer. Tonight the Spirit of the Lord is given to you and you are charged to GO and proclaim the Good News. GO, turn infants into children of God in holy Baptism. GO, transform bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood in the holy Eucharist. GO, liberate souls oppressed by sin in Holy Penance. GO, bind up damaged bodies and hearts in holy Anointing. GO, unite couples in holy Matrimony. GO, bury our dead and commend them to our merciful God.

The time has come.

The time has come.

The time is now.

Anderson and Rafael

you must GO!

Words After Communion and Thanks from Newly Ordained

St. Mary’s Basilica, Sydney, 3 December 2021

I echo the thanks of our newly ordained to all those who have contributed to their journey of faith, their discernment of their vocation and their formation for it. If I might add one more thank-you: thank you Rafael and Anderson for offering yourselves to God and His people for this beautiful vocation and for persevering through a full decade of formation and mission.

Our Gospel tonight told us of a crowd for whom Jesus felt pity because they seemed to Him like sheep without a shepherd. Well, tonight the Archdiocese of Sydney has added two fine priests to its numbers; this past fortnight we’ve added five deacons, all of them future priests; and next Wednesday night Bishop-elect Meagher will be consecrated. Eight ordinations in a fortnight is an extraordinary grace for which we give thanks to Almighty God and pray for these eight men and their future ministry.

Finalmente, quisiera felicitar a las familias de nuestros dos nuevos sacerdotes, los Catequistas y miembros del Camino Neocatecumenal, y sobre todo al recién ordenado P. Anderson Rodas y P. Rafael Galicia. ¡Felicidades queridos padres! Congratulations dear fathers!

[1] Quoted in E. J. Kahn Jr., “Children’s Friend,” New Yorker, 17 December 1960, p. 47

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqKibP-xTW0; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz4lZcDO7mg; or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nB0QpwRgV4.

[3] Mt 10:40; 15:24; 21:37; Jn 3:31-34; 4:34; 5:23-24,30,36-38; 6:29,38-39,44,57; 7:16-18,28-29,33; 8:16-18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:45,49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21.

[4] e.g. Mt 10:5; 22:3-4; 28:16-20; Mk 3:14; 16:15-18; Lk 9:2,52; 10:1; Acts 1:8.

[5] Marc Ouellet, Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy (Sophia Institute Press, 2019), pp. 31-32.

Welcome to St Mary’s Basilica in Sydney for the priestly ordination of Rev. Anderson Gallego Rodas and Rev. Rafael Silva Galicia on the Feast of the great Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier, minor patron of Australia and major patron of missionaries. It is a very fitting feast on which to be ordaining two missionary priests and we commend them to his protection and intercession. It is also a an especially happy occasion after so many months of COVID-19 lockdown prevented their ordination before now.

I recognise the participation tonight of Auxiliary Bishop-elect Most Rev. Danny Meagher; the Vicar General Very Rev. Fr Gerry Gleeson; the Rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Very Rev. Fr Eric Skruzny, with Vice-Rector Fr Marlon Perez, staff of the seminary and Anderson and Rafael’s brother seminarians; the Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Very Rev. Fr Michael de Stoop, with his team and seminarians; staff of the University of Notre Dame Australia and the Catholic Institute of Sydney who trained our two priestlings; and priests of the Archdiocese and beyond, who delight in welcoming two new brothers into their ranks.

I also acknowledge the Responsibles of the Neocatechumenal Way in Australia: Toto and Rita Piccoli, Fr Tony Trafford and Simao Cortes; the catechists and members of the local communities with which these two men have been walking; and we congratulate all the members of the Way here in Sydney and beyond.

Saludamos a todos los que nos ven desde Colombia, México y otras partes del mundo. Con especial afecto a los padres, hermanos y hermanas de Anderson y Rafael, que debido a las restricciones les ha sido imposible acompañarnos esta noche. Saludo a los padres de Anderson: Jairo y Elsy, y a sus hermanos Jeisson, Andrey y Sebastián sus cuñadas y sobrinos. También saludo a los padres de Rafael: Arturo y Guadalupe, y sus hermanas Ana Laura, Viridiana y Maribel. Nos acompañan también sus comunidades y catequistas del camino Neocatecumenal en Colombia y México aquien también extendemos un cordial saludo.

And to everyone present in this cathedral tonight or joining us virtually: a very warm welcome.