We are here this evening to thank God for the priesthood of Fr. Victor Mayorga.
When Fr. Victor asked me to be here this evening to celebrate his 20th anniversary as a priest, I was honored. First, because I want to be here for this event for my brother and friend. Second, because Fr. Victor was my first pastor as a newly ordained priest. He taught me how to be a priest.
One of the truths about seminary is that seminary only prepares you to be ordained. But, you don’t learn very much about how to be a priest in the seminary. The only way to learn how to be a priest is to become a priest and do the work a priest does, and to have a good mentor to show you how to do it. Fr. Victor was my first mentor. He is a good mentor. A lot of what I do today as a pastor, I learned from him here at St. John’s.
That is because Fr. Victor Mayorga is a “good shepherd”. I don’t have to prove that. There are many examples. I only have to look at the number of men the Diocese has sent to him for care, who were at a point in their life where they needed his shepherding, like I did. And, I know that many of you have experienced the same thing.
Last night, at Sacred Heart Parish, we had our Advent Reconciliation Service. We had ten priests and we didn’t finish until late. I had similar experiences when I was here. I will never forget my first Advent Reconciliation Service here at St. John’s in 2010. It lasted almost three hours. That night, I had the worst nightmares I can remember. It shocked me. I took that foul experience the next day to Fr. Victor. He explained to me the spiritual dangers of Confessing; that the Confessor needs to pray and prepare to encounter evil in a way that protects him from the evil he is forgiving in others. The devil hates priests; especially when the priests set the sinner free from their sins. Fr. Victor advised me to seek spiritual protection. Pray for your priests, that they will also be free from the snares and temptations of the Devil. I’m not imagining these things. I have lived them. Pray for your priests.
Imagine sin like waves of the ocean breaking on rocks. In Confession, the sins of the world break on the priests. I hear people say, “But, Father, I don’t have anything to Confess.” That is spiritual arrogance. St. Augustine said that even a holy man sins seven times a day.
It is shocking to me how many parishes schedule Confessions like this: “4:00 pm to 4:30pm, or by appointment.” In my opinion that is a lazy pastor. And it leads to lazy souls. And the demons pile on in such a community.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.
A good shepherd offers protection from evil for his flock. He is their spiritual physician. I can think of few things that make a priest a good shepherd, few things as powerful, and that only a priest can do, that are better than hearing Confessions. Of course the Eucharist is the sum and summit of our faith, but only those who go to Confession can share in the bounty of the Eucharist.
Look at the number of hours Fr. Victor is in the Confessional. That is something I learned here, from his example.
In my parish of Sacred Heart in Austin, my parishioners and I talk back to one another when I am preaching. I love it. And, I repeat myself a lot. For example, I will ask them, “Do you want to have eternal life with God?”
And so, I ask you, “Do you want to have eternal life with God?”
If so, then there are only three things that the Baptized have to do. It seems almost too simple. First, don’t miss Mass. Third Commandment of the Ten Commandments, “Keep Holy the Sabbath.”
Second, receive Holy Communion as often as you can. Remember that Jesus taught us,
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
And, third, if you fall off the bicycle, get up and go to Confession. We all fall off the bicycle. Don’t stay in the dirt. Get back up. Get into the Confessional. Confess often. There is unlimited Grace and Mercy in frequent Confession.
Do these three things. Everything else will fall into place.
We thank God for priesthood and good shepherds. We thank God for the priesthood of Fr. Victor.
May God bless you, my brother.