News & Events
Feed my Sheep
Ordination Mass for Fr. Michael Tran
St. Andrew's Cathedral
June 10, 2017
“Because the initiative of vocation, the ability to even hear the voice of God, the grace to be able to say Yes to the will of God, the gift of being able to be a priestly people through our baptism—it is all from God. It is all gift, it is all grace.”
~ Bishop Gary Gordon
This is pretty amazing. I need to ask your forgiveness that I do not know one word of Vietnamese. I was trying to learn the word for Thank you. What is it, again, Michael? Cảm ơn bạn.
Cảm ơn bạn. That word, thank you, as many of the pastors in the Diocese of Victoria will know, and many of the communities, has been at the heart of my homily at Confirmations this year. It is on a day like this that our thanksgiving is turned exclusively to God. Each of us has played a part in Michael’s formation. His mother, his late father, his brothers, sister, family, pastors that he’s served with, the two seminaries he attended (Christ the King and St. Peter’s), the pastoral staff of our Diocese—we’ve all played some part. We could, and should, raise our hands in thanksgiving.
But the real thank you is to God on a day like this. Because the initiative of vocation, the ability to even hear the voice of God, the grace to be able to say Yes to the will of God, the gift of being able to be a priestly people through our baptism—it is all from God. It is all gift, it is all grace.
And so, when we celebrate the gift of an ordination, it is really to lift our hearts, and our minds, and our souls, and our hands, in thanksgiving to God’s providential care of God’s people.
Michael, you and your family chose these readings that we’ve just heard from sacred Scripture: the call of Samuel—indeed, it seems as though by sleeping in the temple a lot, one can eventually hear the Word of God. I hope you weren’t spending the whole time in the seminary sleeping—and I’m sure you weren’t! You had to work very, very hard in the seminary, and no doubt burn the midnight oil to complete some of those courses.
But to hear the voice of God is what we find in the first Reading. The second Reading provides some wonderful indicators of how we are to live as Christian people. But what I want to spend a moment on is the Gospel: these beautiful questions that Jesus poses to Peter.
Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Three times! And Peter gets the answer right every time—which is the first time he ever got the answers right! But he said, “Yes, Lord, I love you. Yes, Lord, I love you. Yes, Lord, I love you.” It’s a quick and it’s an easy response: Yes, Lord, I love you. But then Jesus adds a powerful couple of verbs to this word love. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.
So this is the grace of this Gospel, that it does not end with the mere keeping of a command to love God, but it gets moved over into a powerful verb, an activity, an action, of feeding and tending.
The Church that you are part of has changed significantly since the day you were baptized. The Church I was ordained into 35 years ago has changed significantly in those 35 years. Let me reflect with you briefly, what I mean.
It would seem simple enough to answer the questions Who are the lambs? Who is the flock? Who are the sheep? It could be answered simply: Well, it’s the Catholic people, and they get fed when they come to church, and they get Holy Communion. But in the 35 years that I’ve been a priest, that answer is no longer sufficient, nor is it even adequate to answer the question Who are the sheep of the fold of Christ?
If we look at the cross of Jesus Christ, if we hear his words from the cross, we find him speaking to the world. To the world. Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. The will of the Father in sending his Son is to save the whole. The world. So, who are the sheep?
In the 35 years that I’ve been a priest, the answer has expanded radically. It is certainly way more than who shows up at church on Sunday. In fact, in our Diocese, many Catholics don’t show up at church on Sunday. So who is the flock that we are to shepherd?
The next question is, Where are they? This is an important question. It rings true with the voice and message of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he in almost every single word to the Church is saying, “Go out and shepherd the whole world.”
Wow. This is big stuff.
Lastly, Michael, my dear family, brothers and sisters in Christ, when Jesus said to Peter “Feed my sheep” I had to reflect for myself, what are we going to feed them, once we find them? Good question. What will we feed the sheep, once we find them?
In the second Reading St. Paul gives us some powerful words that describe what we are to feed the sheep. Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Meekness. Patience. Forgiveness. And all with thanksgiving. And, if we can feed the sheep where they are—not where we want them to be, but where they are, and who they are—with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness, one day, way down the road, when you’re as old as I am, you might be able to give them Holy Communion.
That’s where we’re at, as the Church in Canada. I would suggest to my brother priests, to my brother deacon-about-to-be-a-priest, to all the faithful, that these are really vital questions for us, and will frame the kind of ministry and Church that we are able to build for God in this Diocese.
Who are the sheep? Where are they? And what is the food that will bring them to communion with their loving Father?
In my experience, with everything the seminary worked at trying to help me learn and achieve, I would say that the food that the sheep are starving for is compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness. And maybe, after feeding the sheep, once we find where they really are, with these beautiful gifts we might be able to bring them Holy Communion.
It’s a long, long road, but you’ve already been on a long road, so I think you’re going to be used to this. I’ll leave you with a little story that illustrates what I mean.
Two weeks ago I got a text from somebody whom I have known for 35 years. This person sent me a text with a picture of six of their grandchildren making their first Holy Communion. It was beautiful. They said, “Thank you for your kindness. I made my second First Communion in 64 years.” Beautiful.
Bishop Gary removes his pectoral cross. This is a symbol of the Prodigal Son story. Sometimes when you say thank you, you give people a gift. You know, you want to say thank you to someone, and you give them a gift? Well, I want to give this to your mother. I want her to take this home and hold on to it. And when she’s praying, she’s going to be able to pray for me, and you, and our Diocese. To Fr. Michael’s mother: I want you to have this, and take it home. Thank you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Listening to Bishop Gary's homily with family and friends in the background
The new priest's hands are anointed with Chrism Oil, to be tender in carrying out God's work
Click here to see more photos from Fr. Michael Tran's Ordination
Photos courtesy Connie Dunwoody