Sunday, May 22, 2016

Homily for the First Mass of a Newly Ordained: "What Is Man That You Are Mindful of Him?"

Oftentimes, a newly ordained priest asks another priest to preach the homily at his first Mass. I was honored this week to preach at the first Mass of newly ordained priest, Fr. Thomas Gignac. Fr. Tom was a member of my parish when he entered the seminary six years ago. It was a great joy to see him ordained a priest this past Saturday. Praised Be Jesus Christ!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Every few months or so, the news hypes up the fact that the Powerball jackpot has reached some astronomical number. 400 Million, 500 million.  I think not too long ago it even hit a billion! In the days leading up to the drawing, people are crazed as they buy tickets and discuss what they are going to do with the money when they win it. Admittedly, I am one of those people. A few hours before the drawing, I run down to the store, buy a ticket, and for a few hours, I think about what I am going to do with that money.  Inevitably, I wake up the next morning to discover that somebody in Oklahoma or West Virginia has won. The media abounds with good news about these deserving folks who have won. I have to be honest, while I may feel some level of happiness for them, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the happiness I would feel if I had won instead of them. Maybe it is selfish, but the fact that some people far away from me whom I don’t even know have won, doesn’t really do much for me.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that God is infinitely perfect and blessed in himself.  He is a communion of persons. A communion of perfect love.  

Sometimes, when we think about God and when we talk about God, we do so in a very distant or remote way.  God is way out there somewhere and we are way down here.  God is out in Oklahoma and we are in Methuen.  God is infinitely perfect and blessed, but we aren’t.

In 1961, the Soviets launched the first man into space.  As part of their atheistic propaganda, they would say, “When the cosmonauts got into space, they looked and looked but didn’t see any god.”  The reason they said this was to mock religion, but we sometimes live like this too.  We think of God as far away, disconnected from us, remote, and distant.

In contrast with the Soviet propaganda, today’s psalmist looks around at the universe not with cynicism but rather with awe.  

He says that he looks up at the stars, the moon, and the heavenly realms;

he sees the seas and rivers teeming with life, he sees the hills and the fields and all living things . . . he sees it all and he is overwhelmed. He looks at the grandeur and majesty of the created realms and after seeing all of this he wonders aloud, “What is man that You are mindful of him?”  Yes, the psalmist knows that the author of the creation cares about him, loves him, and is close to him.

God, it is true, is infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself. But, the catechism goes on to teach us, that God freely created the human person in order that each of us could become sharers in His own Blessed Life.  He draws close to us.  He invites all of us to share in the wealth of his love and blessedness! God wants us to share in HIS riches. To accomplish this, God sent His Son into the world. In Christ, God came to dwell among us.  

And, as St. Paul tells us today, God gets even closer than that!  St. Paul declares that God has poured his love into our hearts. He not only creates things for us. He not only comes to dwell among us, but he pours His Holy Spirit into our hearts and makes his dwelling within us.  God is not way out there--remote from us and distantly enjoying the communion of love that He himself is. No, he comes to dwell within us.  He pours himself into our hearts so that we might share in this communion of love.

Yesterday, the Holy Spirit was poured out onto our brother, Tom.  St. John Paul II once wrote that the priest prolongs the presence of Christ the Good Shepherd in the midst of the flock.  In other words, Fr. Tom received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in order to continue the mission of Christ himself--to draw human beings into the communion of the blessed life of the Trinity. Fr. Tom--through the ministry entrusted to him by Christ, will be a minister of the infinite riches of Christ. Fr. Tom will announce God’s nearness, but more amazingly, he will be be an instrument that unites us to God. Those to whom Fr. Tom ministers will become sharers in the communion of love.

The Holy Spirit was poured out upon Tom yesterday so that others could share in the joy of God’s nearness.  The Blessed Trinity wants all to share in their Communion of Love.

When Fr. Tom speaks the words of the Holy Gospel, he will announce to everyone the nearness of God. Overwhelmed by such undeserved love, we are filled with wonder and awe: What is man that you should be mindful of him?

When those who are unbaptized are lowered into the baptismal font by Fr. Tom, they will become sharers in the Divine Life. Overwhelmed by such undeserved love, we are filled with wonder and awe: “What is man that you should be mindful of him?”

When those who have grown distant from God through sin hear Fr. Tom speak the words of absolution over them, they will know the nearness of God. Overwhelmed by such undeserved love, we are filled with wonder and awe: What is man that you should mindful of him?

Those who are sick and dying--those who often feel afraid and distant from God--will know God’s nearness when, in the middle of the night, Fr. Tom comes to bring the Anointing of the Sick. Overwhelmed by such tenderness and undeserved love, we are filled with wonder and awe: What is man that you should be mindful of him?

Most importantly, Fr. Tom’s hands will feed the faithful with the Body and Blood of the Lord. Jesus himself said, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life.” Fr. Tom will feed others with the Bread of everlasting life. They will actually taste and see the nearness of God. Overwhelmed by such undeserved love, we are filled with wonder and awe: What is man that you should be mindful of him?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the reason we all experience such profound joy today is not only because God has poured out his Holy Spirit upon Tom and ordained him to be a priest. We experience such great joy because, through the priesthood bestowed upon Tom, God draws near to all of us. We are all beneficiaries of this great gift that has been bestowed.  All of us today, are filled with joy and with wonder. We cannot help but ask, “How is it possible that God loves us so? How is it possible that God should come so close to us? Who are we to witness and experience such extraordinary things?”

Kruschev said that he sent the cosmonauts all the way up into space, but they didn’t see any god. Today, and every day for the rest of his life, Fr. Tom ascends the steps of the altar--only a few mere feet above the ground. And, in His hands, he will hold God. He will show us God. From his hands, we will receive God. And through his ministry, he will lift us up to God.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are a perfect communion of love. And God has chosen us to be sharers in that love. Fr. Tom will spend the rest of his life being the presence of Christ, the Good Shepherd in the midst of the flock. Fr. Tom is a priest so that God can draw close to us and so that we can receive the riches of God’s manifold love. Today, overwhelmed by God’s closeness and love, overwhelmed that he is mindful of us and cares for us, overwhelmed that He has poured out His love into our hearts, we bow down in humble adoration and join the chorus of all of those who have been made sharers in the riches bestowed by Christ: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and To the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


  1. We were blessed to have been there to hear it in person. Great Homily Fr. Barnes! Congratulations Fr. Tom!
    George & Juanita Gordon from Beverly.

  2. Thank you, Padre, and thank you Father Tom Gignac for echoing Mary's "yes." May God continue to bless you both and make you saints!