"These men you gave me were yours . . . "For these I pray, not for the world, but for these you have give me, for they are really yours . . ." (Jn. 17).Every Dominican here came to those days in his life when he was--or should have been--conscious of the unnerving fact that God's eternal choice had fallen on him in a special, rare manner. On the day of profession, or of its renewal, or of the solemnizing of it, and on the day of priestly ordination, each of us knew somehow that Jesus' words (even though we may not have reflected on them explicitly) applied to himself. "I pray for these you have given me, for they are really yours."
The words are frightening and we do not like to dwell on them for fear of the . consequences. We do not want to delve into ourselves in search of the realization that we are sacred.
Anyway, this is a happy occasion, one on which we ought not give ourselves to soul-searching. We are here to rejoice because of the jubilarians who are with us (and with those who are absent). About what are we rejoicing? Is it not that 25 or 50, or 60 years ago God's choice of them for his ministry was manifest? No, more, is it not that 25, or 50, or 60 years ago the truth that they belong to God the Father and to Jesus Christ in a very particular manner was proclaimed?
Oh, there is more, of course. We are joyfully grateful today for the lives and ministries of our brothers who are this year's jubilarians. We are proud of them, and proud that they are our brothers. Everything they have achieved during the years of ministry which God has afforded them is our achievement as well. When the chapter's preparatory commission decided to honor the jubilarians of 1981 with this Eucharist, everyone was pleased. We own each of these wonderful men, our brothers, a real debt. We are enlarged by them; we are made more estimable because of their successful apostolates; we are made stronger by their dedicated lives, their constancy.
I have the privilege, then, on behalf of all the chapter delegates and in the name of every Dominican here present, of expressing our joy and our gratitude, our compliments and the promise of our prayers, for what each of you has exemplified--does exemplify--in your lives and ministries.
But I return to the awesome idea that must strike us because of this occasion when we read this Sunday's gospel selection. Out of his-eternity, God chose each of us. Though we answered his call voluntarily, his particular choice of each one of us preceded our free response.
The Father, our God, called us for a most special purpose. Listen again to Jesus' explanation in his prayer to the Father for his apostles:
"I have made your name known to those who gave me out of the world. These men you gave me were yours; they have kept your word. Now they realize that all you gave me comes from you. I have entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me, and they received it for these I pray for they are really yours It is in them that I have been glorified. I am in the world no more, but these are . . ."So many years ago--yet not so many--you and I were chosen by God to be in our own time and place what Jesus is; and to try to do what he would do. Jesus has ascended into heaven. He is in the world no more. But we are.
Time-honored tradition refers to priests as "other Christs." In very many and different ways, all of us, priests and cooperator brothers, must fill this role. We are to manifest Christ's love for all men and women. We are consecrated for this by our profession and ordination . God chose us before the beginning of time so that through us Jesus might be glorified.
To fulfill the purpose of God's choosing us, we are given Christ's very power. When we bless others, Jesus blesses them. When we show them compassion, Jesus does. When we hold material things in our hands and dedicate them to God, it is as though Jesus himself takes these elements and holds them as a special possession. When we proclaim his good news, he proclaims ft. When priests speak in His name during sacramental mysteries, Jesus speaks.
These are troubling ideas because none of us measures up to the special claim which God staked on us so many--no, so few years ago. Still, on this joyous occasion, the nagging of our conscience subsides for two reasons. First, we really do have the right to rejoice because of our jubilarians. Secondly, we are men of hope, relying on Jesus' words: "For these I pray--not for the world, but for these you have given me." Jesus' prayer overtakes our deficiencies.
By Jesus' prayer, may each of you whom we honor this afternoon enjoy many more years among us for our inspiration. Thank you for all that you have done in Jesus' name. Thank you for all that you are.