At the solemn point in this liturgy when I say the Prayer of Ordination, there is a section of the prayer that all the bishops present will say together:
“Pour out now upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the Spirit of governance whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit whom he bestowed upon the holy Apostles, who established the Church in each place as your sanctuary for the glory and unceasing praise of your name.”
We pray to pour out the Spirit of governance. It is this governing Spirit that we will witness being poured into the mind, heart and soul of Joseph Mark Spalding this afternoon. It is an ancient spirit. It is the very power of God.
There are signs that prefigure this spirit, which only our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, can give. Moses asked for a similar spirit on those chosen to assist him in governance. In today’s Gospel, Simeon the prophet recognized this Spirit even in the first days of the life of Jesus. It is a Spirit that brings light into darkness. It is a Spirit given generously, not for the good of the one receiving for he is the humblest of servants, but rather for those whose lives will be touched and enlightened by Christ Jesus through him.
This governing Spirit has been handed down. Indeed, it can be traced back to the original twelve who received this governing Spirit from the Lord Jesus Himself.
It is this Governing Spirit by which Bishop Mark will preach, his first duty being to proclaim Jesus Christ and only Him. By this Spirit, Bishop Mark will enter into the holy mysteries of the sacramental life of the Church and leads others to do so. Through this Spirit, he will guide and give care for all in the truth and charity of Christ.
On this feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, there is the beautiful Gospel imagery of the ancient Simeon lifting up the child Jesus into his arms so to cherish the presence of his Savior and to show Him to the world. So too Bishop Mark will lift up Jesus as his standard to shape his life and ministry of a new bishop.
Only 53 years old, this new bishop has been well prepared. Thank you, Lawrence and all the family of Bishop Mark. Thank you, the Church and faithful of Washington County in Kentucky. One hundred and eighty years ago, in 1837, your Kentucky neighbor, Nelson County, generously gave a son to be the first bishop of Nashville – Richard Pius Miles, born in Maryland but hailing from Fairfield, Kentucky. Thank you, formators at Saint Meinrad Seminary and Louvain. Thank you, parishioners of all the parishes in which he has served – most recently Holy Trinity and Holy Name. Thank you, those who assisted Fr. Mark in his service at Judicial Vicar, especially in his collaboration with Archbishop Thomas Kelly. Thank you, Bishop Mark, for your generous service as Vicar General for me and with me over the past six years. It has been my special joy to call you friend and collaborator, Mark, especially during these last six years – THANK YOU! You have been very well prepared. May I say, however, that your daily preparation will begin each morning in chapel, as you call on the governing Spirit, given to you this day … a gift from God not for yourself but in service to the faithful in and through Jesus Christ, whom you will carry with you each day as did Simeon – to proclaim that day the Light of Christ to the world.
In today’s first reading, the Prophet Malachi speaks of a messenger to prepare the way. In that long line of messengers, who lift up the Messiah, you will lift up the Lord Jesus. On September 24, 2015, in Saint Matthew Cathedral in Washington, DC, Pope Francis spoke to all the bishops of the US. He spoke to our hearts with these words:
“(Our service as bishops) is … about … joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The “style” of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant “for us.” May the word of God grant meaning and fullness to every aspect of their lives; may the sacraments nourish them with that food which they cannot procure for themselves; may the closeness of the shepherd make them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that “taste of eternity” which they seek in vain in the things of this world.”
Bishop-elect Mark, in the midst of lights burning brightly on this feast of the Presentation of our Lord, may you go forth so that, united with Pope Francis and all the bishops, you will carry the Light of Christ before and with those you serve. Preach Jesus boldly! Celebrate the Sacred Mysteries reverently! Serve those entrusted to your care lovingly and joyfully – so that God might “lift up the lowly” through you.