Our Ordinand, Philip Godsell concludes our Advent series of sermons on the sacraments.
Its good to be home after a term in theological college, well Father Mark asked me preach this morning on the sacraments of Marriage and Ordination, so be patient with me, “as patience is a virtue and virtue is a grace and grace is a little girl who wouldn’t wash her face”
What do I mean by grace, well a sacrament, as we know, is an outward sign that confers an inner grace.
And the Sacrament of Marriage is no exception, as each one of us has something that we want to do with our lives: something we want to become. It may take us a while to find out what that “something” is, but eventually idea’s and goals form, either consciously or unconsciously.
And it seems to me that as people pursue these goals, whatever they may be—to be a Priest, or Dentist, Care worker, or to be the best School Teacher that ever lived, to own a Rolls Royce or whatever else we may see our lives to be about, however sometimes we encounter another human being to whom we are so attracted that the love of this other person supersedes all other life goals and ambitions.
Whether gradually, or in a whirlwind, we decide that the first person on the agenda, is now going to be the life, the happiness, the holiness of this other person. The good of this other, takes precedence, even over the desires and dreams that we had for ourselves. And when that other person makes the same decision, together the two embark on a whole new adventure.
It seems to me that this is the basic meaning of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Perhaps then the sacrament reveals the religious dimension of marriage. Besides the human, social and legal dimensions of marriage, the public sign that one gives oneself totally to this other person, sacramental marriage is also a public statement about God. The celebration of each of the sacraments reveals something of this ultimate reality: who God is and who God is for us.
In the Scriptures the relationship between God and God’s people is often described in terms of a marriage. The early Christians, reflecting on Christ’s love for us, also used this image.
Christ and the Church embrace in mutual love and self-giving, even as do husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33). “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
In each of the sacraments, a window opens and we can glimpse the mystery of God and God’s plan for the salvation of the world. In Christian marriage we see that God was not content to be alone, but embarked on a whole new life project.
For it was out of love God created us, and all that is. God is faithful no matter what. Whether we are faithful or faithless, God is faithful; whether we wander away in sin or remain in the embrace of love, God is always there and is ever ready to embrace us.
The sacramental sign, which the husband and wife give to each other, they also give that sign to the whole community of witnesses. I too have made commitments to God and I’d like to think that God has made commitments to me, as I progress through Ordination training.
There has been many times when I wonder if God will be faithful. I have never seen God, but I can see the faithfulness of Christian husbands and wives. Their love for each other is a sacramental sign and witness of God’s love for me.
I believe that our human lives are interconnected, like a fabric, woven together by many commitments. The faithfulness of their commitment ultimately strengthens my own commitments.
This indeed is a great mystery. It is something that touches me deeply each time I experience a Christian wedding and each time I experience the sacramental love of husband and wife, and I am reminded of my own commitments, plus the commitments which I made to my Wife, because she has allowed me to surrender our secular trappings and follow more fully a life in Christ as an Ordinand.
I pray daily, for the strength, both physically and mentally to complete my time at Theological college, but I have learnt that God only ever gives three answers to prayers….1. Yes! 2. Not Yet. 3. I have something else better in mind.
Many of you here today, have seen me move from the Pew to Postulancy, and latterly into Ordination training, and to be honest, Ordination had never really been a life goal! , Ambition to train as a Priest had never even appeared on my radar! , but I feel that I have been directed by a higher power, directed down a rather rocky and emblematically most painful path along which I have been dragged kicking and screaming by some wonderful encounters love and support which surpass any explanation.
As I prepare to receive the sacrament of Ordination, once again a window opens, and I can see more fully the mystery of God, and Gods plan for the salvation of the world.
Every day I awake and have doubts, doubts that I will ever be worthy of this sacrament.
But I have received a tremendous gift of faith from God, so I cannot just sit and do nothing with it, as by accepting Ordination, I am told it leaves and indelible mark on your soul and change’s a person forever.
But let me remind you all, that through our Baptism, each of us is called to share in Christ’s mission, as Priest, Profit and King.
Jesus Christ became man and lived amongst us, and while he was here on earth, he fulfilled a particular mission given to him by his father, he taught, and shepherded the people, he healed bodily and spiritual illnesses, and most importantly he offered himself on the cross in sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
He was and is our eternal high priest, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he left behind his apostles who where to continue his mission on earth.
The apostles in turn selected certain men to be there successors, these men became Bishop’s, they ordained these bishops by the laying on of hands in the invocation of the Holy Spirit, which is called the Sacrament of Ordination, or Holy Orders.
Over time the Church has come to a deeper understanding of Holy Orders, but we see from the very beginning that Christ intended that his church be ordered according to a certain hierarchy.
We see that in the Scriptures that Christ established three degrees of Holy Orders, Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
Bishops share in the fullness of Holy Orders and serve as the head of the local Diocese.
Priests are the Bishops co workers in his ministry and serve in the local community.
Deacons are ordained to help the Bishop and Priest.
At Ordination, The Bishop, Priest or Deacons receives special gifts of the Holy Spirit, which strengthen and bring to life their particular ministry.
Ordination occurs as part of the Eucharist, where part of the rite is when the bishop lays his hands on the head of the Ordinand and invokes the Holy Spirit in the prayer of concretion.
Each degree of ordination confers different grace and privileges, from the ability to preach, given to deacons, from the power to act in the Person of Christ in offering the Eucharist and forgiving sins, granted to Priest, to a special grace of strength granted to Bishops, which allow them to lead and teach and sanctify their flock.
The Sacrament of Ordination is ultimately considered as a gift, given by Christ for the service of his people so that his mission of salvation may be carried on until the end of time.
So no pressure then, in a very real way I have experienced a great sense of reverence and awe about my priestly vocation as my time in theological college. I always have, of course, but lately I have been truly rejoicing because I recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ has done amazing things in my life. The Lord can never be outdone in his generosity. I have experienced the most amazing love of Christ and I can do nothing but rejoice.
So by the help of God, if I make the grade and receive the Sacrament of Ordination from My Lord Monmouth, I pray that this Sacrament with be the outward sign that confers an inner grace.