Editor’s note: This column is adapted from the Archbishop’s homily to for the opening Mass of the new academic year at St. John’s Seminary, Sept. 3, 2014. The Archbishop was reflecting on 1 Cor. 3:1—9 and Luke 4:38—44.
This 75th anniversary marks a new beginning.
St. John’s is one of America’s historic seminaries — with a long legacy and an important role still to play in the Church’s mission in the 21st century. Here in this seminary, we are forming priests for the new evangelization of our country and our continent — men of mission and men of mercy.
In the first reading that we heard today, St. Paul tells us something important about our mission here at St. John’s Seminary.
He tells us that the Church belongs to Jesus. And he is reminding us that there is no place in the Church for selfishness — no place for jealousy and rivalry.
And St. Paul tells us that we are God’s co-workers. This is an awesome privilege we have.
We are co-workers with the God who created the sun and the moon and the stars. With the God who made the universe and everything in it — every living thing, every soul.
God has asked each of us in this seminary community to be his co-workers! Just as he asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to cooperate with his will in bringing Jesus Christ into the world.
What an amazing privilege! This should make us humble every day. It should bring us to our knees before the Blessed Sacrament — every day.
This is who we are. We are God’s co-workers, and we each have a contribution to make to God’s mission.
St. Paul describes it this way: We are here to plant. We are here to water. God will do the rest. God will cause the increase, God will cause the good fruits to grow.
What we are doing here at St. John’s Seminary is absolutely essential to God’s plan.
Because we are forming the men who will grow the family of God here in Los Angeles. We are forming the men who will nurture God’s family and be instruments in sanctifying God’s children — feeding them with the Bread of Life, the Word of God and the Eucharist.
Pope Francis says that every seminary should be built on “four pillars” — spiritual formation, academic formation, community formation and apostolic formation. So in this new moment at St. John’s, let’s commit ourselves once more to strengthening these four pillars of our Seminary and building on them.
If I can say a word to you, my brothers who are preparing to be priests. It’s important to remember — you are not going to seminary alone. You are all brothers who are walking on this same path to the priesthood.
For each of us, our life started in the community of our parents and families. The Church started as the family of Jesus and his Apostles and disciples — including all the men and women who were following Jesus.
The ancient Church spoke of the family as the “domestic Church.” And it is beautiful to reflect on this image of the family as the place where Jesus is at the center and where the values of the Gospel are lived and passed on.
In the family of his Church, Jesus calls his priests to be brothers. First you are called to be brothers with Jesus in the dignity of his own priesthood. You are also called to be brothers to one another and with your brother priests.
And Jesus is also calling you to be brothers and spiritual fathers to the entire family of God. He is calling you to walk with your people in friendship, to be close to them in their sufferings and joys. To serve them as Christ served people.
So part of what you are learning in these years of formation is the capacity for friendship, for brotherhood.
I pray that you will grow in your friendships and learn to share your joys and expectations and difficulties with one another. Work together! Help one another! Do all this so that you all grow in love and become the holy priests that God wants you to be.
For all of us — whether we are seminarians, students or faculty, or whether we are administrators or board members or benefactors — it’s important to remember that we are not preparing men to do a “job.”
We are preparing men to minister in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We are preparing men to be apostles. To go forth, to go out into the world — just as Jesus did — to teach and heal and to proclaim the mercy of God.
This is the image of Jesus that we see in our Gospel reading today. It is very interesting. He is on the road, going from town to town. He is reaching out to people in their needs, in their pain, trying to be close to them and to serve them.
In this image of Jesus, we see the image of the priesthood.
And this is our responsibility. We have this beautiful task of forming men to follow Jesus and to share in his mission of proclaiming God’s mercy.
So this is an exciting time of grace, growth and renewal at St. John’s. We are asking God to grant us many and holy vocations!
So as we begin this new academic year, let’s ask our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary to help us to always be faithful and to offer our talents and services to God in all humility. May she help us to plant and to water and to always trust that God will bring good fruits from our labors.
Archbishop Gomez is the author of “Men of Brave Heart: The Virtue of Courage in the Priestly Life” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009) and “Hombres de corazón valiente: La virtud de la fortaleza en la vida sacerdotal” (Spanish Edition).