Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Forty years a priest . . . Ballarat 11th November 1980

Although it had to be celebrated privately at the High Altar here at All Saints' Benhilton (in a locked church!) because of the Covid Lockdown restrictions, for me, today's Mass of S. Martin of Tours was a special celebration of God’s faithfulness over the 40 years I have been a priest in his Church. Ordained on 11th November 1980 at St Paul’s Ballarat (Australia) by Bishop John Hazlewood, I give thanks to God for these words of Father Robert Beal, Dean of Newcastle (later Bishop of Wangaratta, 1985) who was our retreat conductor and preacher at the ordination Mass. I have returned to them so many times over the years:

'It is your task, my brothers, 
to beckon the world’s gaze to the crucifix,
and to point to those wounds 
on the Body of the King of glory. 
We gaze at the God-man, 
and are confronted with the Truth 
that will make men free.'

The photos in this post are from the ordination. The second one is the actual 'moment.' I’m not visible in that one. As was often the case in my fairly poor footballing days (Rugby League) at high school, I'm in the middle of the scrum! With his back to the camera in the foreground is Mark Sumner who was also ordained to the priesthood that night.  

Today I thank God for his saving grace, his forgiveness, his love, his healing power, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I thank him for the thousands of times I have been privileged to 'lead the rejoicing throng to the altar of God' where, united with the Eternal Offering of our Great High Priest, we have been swept into the worship of heaven. I thank him for those who lovingly influenced my vocation from right across the Christian traditions and helped me to respond. I thank him for the love and prayers of Holy Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham and all the Saints. I thank him for family members, parishioners and friends - old and new - whose love, prayers and generosity of support over these forty years have made it possible for me to embrace both the joys and the sorrows of the priestly ministry. I thank him for those who have forgiven my sins, my mistakes and failures. 

Please continue to pray for me, and for all priests, as we try - so often falteringly - to live according to these precious words of S. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4-10:

We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Finally, I share with you this wonderful hymn of Charles Wesley - one of the first hymns I learned to accompany as a fledgling teenage organist! - which so long ago I made my own. It has never failed to touch my heart, to move me, strengthen me, and nourish me. It has often helped me keep everything else in perspective:

Jesus! the Name high over all,
In hell or earth or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the Name to sinners dear,
The Name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to Heav’n.

Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
And life into the dead.

O that mankind might taste and see
The riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me
Would all the world embrace.

Thee I shall constantly proclaim,
Though earth and hell oppose;
Bold to confess thy glorious Name
Before a world of foes.

His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
’Tis all my business here below
To cry “Behold the Lamb!”

Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his Name,
Preach him to all and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!” 


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