Episcopal Ordination of
Most Reverend John Corriveau, O.F.M., Cap.
Bishop of Nelson, British Colombia
January 30, 2008
Immaculate Conception Church, Kelowna
(Isaiah 61:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; John 20:19-23)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel of John, that we have just heard, extends to us the Lord`s greeting to his disciples, who were still locked in fear over what had taken place, during the previous three days, culminating in the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.
It is the night of that first Easter. The meeting with the risen Lord is the humble yet powerful beginning of a new age: fear is transformed into joy; pain is changed to peace and trust; flight and hiding become courage and mission; division and hatred are vanquished by the gift of the Holy Spirit, by God`s love revealed in Jesus, through his power to remove evil and sinfulness.
1. “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36) is therefore the greeting and gift of the Risen One, that he presents to his own friends. These are the first words of the Risen Lord, and they are the messianic gift received by the fearful disciples, as a fulfillment of the promise, that had been made by the angels, the night of the Lord’s birth: “Peace on earth to the people whom God loves” (Luke 2:14).
The Hebrew word “shalom” means re-establishing the full meaning of things. Biblical peace is not only a pact that allows a peaceful life, or indicates the opposite of a time of war. Rather, peace refers to the well-being of daily existence, to man`s state of living, in harmony with nature, with himself and with God. Concretely, this peace means blessing, rest, honor, richness, health and life.
2. The proclamation of the Word of God in the Church is not only a memory of time and events, that are in the past; it is listening to God, who speaks to us today and it makes present and alive the message and contents of his Word. The gift of peace, that Jesus entrusted to his first disciples, becomes a promise and a prayer shared with the Christian community. This happens at the beginning of every Eucharistic celebration when, gathered with the bishop, we receive the very same greeting, that St. Paul addressed to Christians at the beginning of his letters: “Peace be with you!”
3. Peace to you, therefore in the name of the Lord! Peace to the community of the Diocese of Nelson; and especially to you, Fr. John, who today, having been called by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, will become the new shepherd of this diocese. When I informed you of the Pope’s appointment, you responded to me: “I give myself to the decision of the Holy Father and will do whatever the Church asks of me.” In your willingness to serve, you revealed the docility of the rule of St. Francis, who invited his sons to `follow with special devotion’ those venerable pathways of the holy Roman Church that he recommended to them.
4. In the name of the Holy Father, I thank you, Fr. John, for your willingness to serve the Church of Nelson. You will be the sixth bishop of this young diocese, and successor to Bishop Eugene Cooney, to whom I express the appreciation and recognition of Pope Benedict XVI, for the twelve years of dedicated service to this community, with generosity, patience and goodness. In his name, I would also like to greet all the members of this diocese.
5. Dear Brother John, I am certain that the greeting of the peace of Christ evokes for you, in a special way, that Gospel peace, that has been given to the Church, through the truly unique witness of St. Francis of Assisi. You have followed in the footsteps of Francis through your imitation of the poor and crucified Christ, and his successor in the leadership of the Capuchin family, that found in Francis its beginnings and inspiration.
6. As Thomas of Celano has told us in the first biography of the great Saint: “In every one of his sermons, before communicating the Word of God to the people, Francis wished them peace, saying: ‘May the Lord give you peace.’ He announced this peace each time with great devotion to the men and women, whom he would meet or to those who could come to him.” (TC Vita Prima 23). Francis, icon of Christ, with the marks of the Passion upon his body, was also the effective messenger of the gifts of the Risen Lord. The kind and humble voice of the Seraphic Saint of Assisi resounded with his strong invitation and his radical Gospel example, in that little corner of the hill country of central Italy, and its mystical force of attraction and conversion continues to resound, today, throughout the world.
7. On the night of Easter, Jesus sent his disciples forward, with a new mission. That night, began the mission of his Church: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). The mission and the power of Jesus are entrusted into the limited and fragile hands of his apostles. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, that same mission continues in them, granting the power to forgive sins and the possiblity of reconciliation and intimacy with the Father “who is in heaven” (Mt. 6:9).
8. St. Paul understood this well, when he said: “He gave us the ministry of reconciliation... Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ (II Cor. 5:18,20); and if one is in Christ, he is a new creation” (II Cor 5: 14, 17). From that moment onward, began an uninterrupted chain of disciples and witnesses of the mystery that was revealed by Jesus.
9. In the imitation of the Divine Master, St. Francis sent out the first eight brothers, with these words: “Go, dear ones… through various parts of the world and announce to men peace and penance for the remission of sins: be patient in persecution, certain that the Lord will fulfill his designs and maintain his promises. Respond with humility to those who question you, bless those who persecute you, thank those who harm you and spread calumny about you, because, in exchange, the eternal kingdom is being prepared for you” (TC 366,9).
10. “And having received with rejoicing and great delight the precept of holy obedience, they prostrated themselves before their beloved Father who, embracing them with tenderness and devotion, said to each of them, ‘place once again your trust in the Lord and he will care for you.’ He repeated these words each time he sent a brother to fulfill an obedience” (367).
11. These are the very words that I repeat to you, Fr. John, in the name of the Holy Father, as you obediently accept to be the Bishop of Nelson: `Place once again your trust in the Lord.” Among your brother bishops in Canada and throughout the world, you will be a Franciscan and a Bishop.
12. Let us reflect for a moment on the office of Bishop, in order to understand the significance of the episcopal mission. We know well, that it is not easy to be a bishop today, in our age and in the church. Nor is it easy to explain in clear terms the three functions, that are part of the office of bishop: teaching, serving and governing. The words alone seem to be vague, and if we wish to translate them into words, that are not abstract, we must say that the Bishop has the obligation of handing on the faith of the Church, of caring for the sanctification of souls, and of leading the ecclesial community.
13. If we go back to the Gospel origins, we find names that are rich in Christian identity and flavor: the Bishop is the successor of the Apostles, master of the faith, witness of Christ, the “Pontifex” or bridge, who is able to administer the sacraments and make other priests and bishops. In the Church texts, we discover other names that indicate the episcopal office: head of the church, leader, administrator, judge, and finally the most significant word: Shepherd. The title of Shepherd is extremely significant, because it expresses the closeness that the bishop must have with his people, mirroring the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.
14. In his writings, St. Augustine uses another title, to describe the role of a Bishop. The Bishop is a servant. A servant of God. A servant of Christ. A servant of the faithful. A servant of all. This expression - servant - is used by St. Paul, in conjunction with the word “apostle”. We read in the letter to the Romans: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1); St. Peter presents himself as “a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1). This is the concept by which Paul wishes to be known by the Christian community: “one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor. 4:1).
He will repeat this idea again in his letter to the Romans 15:15-16: “because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.” This is the mind of the Divine Master: “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:26). The Franciscan vocation will therefore be well clothed by the episcopal garments, which will be truly honored by the charism of St. Francis.
15. The Lord Jesus has established in his Church the authority, that was entrusted to Peter. He has chosen someone who, like him and in his name, would be head and master: “He who listens to you listens to me” (Luke 10:16). “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Jesus desired that all would be brothers: “You are all brothers” (Mt. 23:8). But in the fraternal society that is the ecclesial community, he decided that there also be brothers in charge of sanctifying, leading and directing: that is apostles, priests and shepherds. He called these functions duty, service and the gift of life for the salvation of others. He wanted this authority to be marked by charity and sacrificial love. Once again St. Augustine speaks about this: “Servum te caritas faciat, qui liberum te veritas fecit” (Charity should make you a servant, just as truth has made you free)” (in Psalm 99).
16. In summary, this is the precise nature and function of the Bishop. It flows from the will of Christ and from his saving mission. The Bishop is one who is sent by the Lord; he is an apostle. His real authority is derived from the service entrusted to him.
17. Finally, there is no pastoral service, unless it grows out of the love of Christ and is done in his name: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him: “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15). Through the continuity of the action of the Apostles, together with the Bishops here present whom I greet fraternally in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I will impose my hands on your head and, with the prayer of the Church, you will become a Bishop.
18. In memory of the dying Saint Francis, who placed his right hand upon the head of Brother Elias, I wish to renew the blessing upon you with the last words of your holy friend, brother and master, in the moment you become bishop and begin your new ministry:
“I bless you, o son, in all and for all, and as the Most High, under your direction, made numerous my brothers and sons, so unto you and in you I bless them all. In Heaven and on earth may God bless you, King of all things. I bless you as I can, and more than that which is in my power, and that which I cannot do, may He who can do everything accomplish it in you. May God remember your work and your task, and reserve for you your recompense, on the day of the retribution of the just. May you find whatever blessing you desire and may all of your just petitions be answered”. (TC Vita prima 108). Amen.