Homily: Ordination of Fr Ashley Caldow, September 14th, 2013

Reverend Ashley Caldow


14th September, 2013

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ's sacramental priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles. The word Ordination comes from the Latin word ordinatio, which means to incorporate someone into an order, and today in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Ashley Caldow, is to be ordained and so incorporated into the ministerial priesthood of Christ.

In the Old Testament, the priesthood of Aaron was established by God among the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt, and their primary duties were the offering of sacrifice and prayer for the people. Today’s readings give a glimpse of the Israelites weary, discontented and distrustful; and the righteous judgment of God brought on them for their murmurings.

The connection to St John’s Gospel explains that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man was to be lifted up. Christ incarnated and humiliated in the most infamous death, that of crucifixion is proposed as a vital model for the Christian. “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”. (John 3:15). These words, so charged with meaning, summarize how Christ's death is the supreme sign of God's love for all mankind. Christ's self-surrender is a pressing call to respond to His great love for us: If it is true that God has created us, that He has redeemed us, that He loves us so much that He has given up His only-begotten Son for us, how can we doubt that He wants us to respond to Him with all our love?

Today’s feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, reminds us that the cross is the universal symbol of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewellery, but we see it primarily as the instrument of salvation. Christ, in offering Himself up on the cross for the sins of all mankind, fulfilled the duties of the Old Testament priesthood once and for all. So, just as the Eucharist makes that sacrifice present to us today, so also the New Testament priesthood is a sharing in the eternal priesthood of Christ.

For this reason, an intimate personal relationship with Christ is fundamental for priestly life and ministry. As a priest, Ashley will continue to strive to capture that intimacy with Jesus as his teacher and model, and the Holy Spirit as his source of inspiration and resolve.

We remember the words of Jesus:  if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.  In contemplating this invitation we can focus on the pain and the self-negation that is implied and even want to decline such an invitation.  However, in recalling my own priestly life over forty years, there is nothing of this experience that would make me regret my decision to enter the seminary and to accept this ministry of priesthood.

While I would have had some idea of the general pattern of priestly ministry in parishes, I could never have anticipated the grace of priestly ministry as I have experienced it.  Ashley too will experience the richness of engaging with the people; the privilege of involvement in people's lives at times of great joy and of great sorrow; the recognition of Christ's presence working through him, with the people whom he seeks to serve. This is both humbling and exalting! The sense of partnership with Christ in sharing in his priesthood is at times overwhelming!  This experience is not confined to extending the compassion of Christ to others and awakening their awareness to God in their lives. It is also surely so in those daunting moments, when sometimes plagued by fear and trepidation, one is called upon to stand with Christ in confronting injustice, error and aggression.  Essential to this life of Priesthood is an ever deepening personal relationship with God, founded on prayer and nourished by the sacraments.

Therein lies the Mission of the Church: to give praise and thanksgiving to God, to celebrate this love and to share it with others. As sharers in the ministerial priesthood of Christ, we priests and bishop are called to model ourselves on Jesus.  Our service is to be total and generous in the service of others and of our God.  There is no room for complacency or self-serving.  We must be open to an ever deepening relationship with Jesus, nurtured by prayer and the sacraments, particularly the daily Eucharist and Reconciliation.  In this way we ensure that our concern does not concentrate on ourselves, and we are able to give of ourselves joyfully in our priestly ministry and lead our people towards our loving God.  In serving our God and people, we benefit ourselves in deepening our relationship with our God.

Ashley will join with me, together with all the priests of the Diocese of Sandhurst, to build upon the legacy of those who have gone before us, to bring Christ to our world and our world to Christ.  I ask that you unite with me in prayer that God may bless Ashley abundantly on this day of his ordination, and continue to empower us all to each use our talents and gifts to fulfil our respective responsibilities in His Church in the Diocese of Sandhurst.

May God who has begun this good work in us, bring it to fulfilment: in Christ’s name. Amen.