Ave Crux, Spes Unica - Ordination to the Priesthood of Fidelis Udousoro

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Ave Crux, Spes Unica - Ordination to the Priesthood of Fidelis Udousoro

“Spes Unica”. These words on the front page of the booklet seized my attention. They are part of a longer phrase that can be traced back to a sixth century Latin hymn: “Ave crux spes unica” – “Hail to the cross, our only hope.” The image on the booklet reveals this meaning of the text.

This image chosen for the ordination of Reverend Fidelis Udousoro is appropriate for this date, September 14, which is the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.

“Hail to the cross, our only hope,” reveals the central truth of Christianity: we are saved, all humanity is saved, by the death of Christ on the cross. The cross, the crucifix, is the universal symbol of Christianity. The Christian faith is not just a set of moral ideals; it is not simply a philosophy of life; it is not even the emulation of the greatest figure in human history, Jesus Christ. Christianity proclaims the sovereign act of God the Father sending his own Son ultimately to offer his life in a painful sacrificial death to save humanity from the power of sin and its consequence, death.

Christianity recognises that the fallen state of humanity was due to sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, and all subsequent sin, which has so marred human history.

We human beings are the high point of God’s creative action. Creation was an act of love. And it was good, as the Book of Genesis repeats in the recounting of the Creation story. 

We human beings are given extraordinary dignity. We are made, as the psalmist says, “little less than a god” (Ps 8:5). We are endowed with such gifts so that we are made in the very image and likeness of God. We have a soul, an eternal soul. We human beings have the capacity to love, and love is the distinguishing feature of the nature of God: God is love, St John says.

We have been given free will. We have the capacity to shape our destiny by the decisions we make. We can choose the path of goodness, truth and beauty. We can choose the path that draws us towards God. Or we can choose other paths that lead away from the good, away from God.

The story of every human being is the drama of choice, the use of our freedom for good or for bad, for life or for death.
The human condition as we know it is plagued with the consequences of wrong choices, what we call sin. We see all around us the reality of evil, of injustice, of suffering, of destructive forces crippling human beings, and casting deep shadows over human life.

We cannot save ourselves from this predicament in which our freedom has placed us. We all know the fragility that marks our own lives. We all know that we have not lived out what was intended for us by the Creator.

Humanity needs a saviour, and, in the fullness of time, the all-merciful God reached out to come to the aid of sinful and suffering humanity. He sent his own Son, born of a woman, born into the human condition with all its limitations.

Though sinless himself, Jesus embraced the sin of humanity as he offered himself in his humanity on the cross. His cry to his Father echoes from Calvary and down through the ages: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In dying, in offering his life for us, a perfect atonement has been offered for the sin of humanity. Human beings are forgiven and reconciled with God. The breach between God and humanity caused by sin is mended. Humanity has been saved, the reign of the consequences of sin was ended and death is overcame.

Ave crux spes unica – hail the cross, our only hope.
Fidelis, I present to you this evening the Christian message summed up in this brief yet ancient phrase. This is what unfailingly you are to preach. Preach the Crucified Christ. There is power in the cross. There is salvation in the cross. There is hope in the cross. Never hold back from preaching Christ crucified, for this is the first and final message of Christianity.

St Paul reminds us in the second reading this evening, “God in Christ, was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them.” Then he says, and I ask you to note this, “He has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.”

Fidelis, we need to announce this message: we have been reconciled with God through the cross of Christ. We are set free. We are healed. We are restored in our relationship with God. This is the truth. This is the word of life and hope.
Fidelis, as a priest, this will find particular expression in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When you raise your hand and say the words, “I absolve you from your sins,” you are making immediate and effective the power of the cross. Mercy, forgiveness, hope and healing flow upon the penitent as you announce the absolution.

And every time, from this night on, when you celebrate a Mass you are making present and real the saving work of Christ upon Calvary. We heard tonight in the Gospel, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out for you.” The blood was poured out on Calvary. The last drops flowed from the pierced heart of the Saviour. In every Mass that you celebrate, you are uniting yourself, and your brothers and sisters at the Mass, with the death of Christ that we might rise with him to new life. You make present and real the saving action of Christ on Calvary.

The celebration of Mass is the most important thing that you do each day. Your ministry is empowered by the Mass. The grace of your priestly ministry flows from the Mass. As a priest you are brought very close to this wondrous mystery, and you dispense it to your brethren in the faith. By your priestly action you draw them into the saving work of Christ. 

Fidelis, tonight I encourage you to offer yourself to God, to be a priest, to be a good priest, to be a holy priest. Lay your life and your future before the Lord. Pray for the grace to be a faithful priest all the days of your life.

Pray that you will persevere to the end, because I know that there is in your heart only one thing: your desire to dwell and serve in the House of God all the days of your life. The words you have chosen from Psalm 73 record the state of your heart this evening: “Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you.”

May these words live always in your heart and inspire all that you do as a priest of Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Friday, September 14, 2018