"You always imitate the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve"

Archbishop Thomas Wenski
(Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the ordination of Fr. Michael Anthony Martínez, S.J. ‘09. The Mass of ordination took place on June 1, 2024, at the Our Lady of Belen Chapel in Miami.)

The ordination of this young Jesuit, Michael Anthony Martinez, a native son of Miami, should inspire great joy among all the people of this Archdiocese.  But this ordination, the first one to take place in Our Lady of Belen Chapel, brings - I dare say - even greater joy to the Jesuit community and to the Belen community.  There are many students and former students of Belen Jesuit here today.  And Michael himself is an alumnus of this great school and for a time served on its faculty. Belen Jesuit attempts to form “men for others” through a three-fold process: being attentive, being reflective, and being loving. This leads to good decision making or what could also be called that discernment that brings us closer to God and to his will for us. And that discernment has brought you, Michael, to this day.

Michael is not the first alumnus of Belen to be ordained a priest; but as I said he is the first one to be ordained here in this chapel.  I pray that his ordination will inspire other students of Belen to consider whether God is calling them to be “men for others” in the Catholic priesthood.  If so, may they respond with the same courage and generosity of heart that Michael did when as his name was called, he responded “present”.

I remember a story of a young priest who was celebrating Mass for the school children and the gospel was the one in which Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd”. This young priest for his homily decided to engage the children and ask them questions. They tell lawyers never to ask a question during a trial that you don’t know what the answer will be. This priest probably should have listened to that advice. These kids lived in the city and probably never had been on a farm or even seen a sheep - and so when he asked them: “What is a shepherd?” most of the kids just looked at him with blank stares - until one kid bravely raised his hand and said, “Father, isn't a shepherd a mean dog?” The boy didn't have any experience of shepherds tending their flocks, but he obviously had a not so happy experience with a German shepherd.

In an urbanized world, kids don’t know what shepherds are; and in an increasingly secularized world where many have lost the sense of the transcendent, people don’t know who priests are, or what they are for: today, the priest is really an enigma, a sign of great contradiction. And in a world in which people live, in the words of Pope Benedict, “etsi Deus non daretur” as if God does not matter the Church will always seem out of step and irrelevant. Such a Church will often be regarded if not with scorn and ridicule then with utter incomprehension. But as St. John writes:  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him (1 John 3: 1). Again, to quote Pope Ratzinger, we, priests, experience this: the “world” does not understand the Christian, does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. Somewhat because it does not know God, and somewhat because it does not want to know him. The world does not want to know God so as not to be disturbed by his will, and therefore it does not want to listen to his ministers. Yet, by Christ’s design, we are "in" the world "for the life of the world." We are to be “men and women for others”.

This call of the Church to be in the world and to be for the world has been strongly emphasized by our Jesuit Pope. He has criticized a self-referential Church, a Church closed in on herself. A priest, Pope Francis tells us, is not to build walls but bridges. And he has challenged all of us to out of the sacristies and go out to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith., Pope Francis reminds us that the priestly anointing we receive is not meant to just make us fragrant; rather, it is meant for the poor, the prisoners, the sick, for those sorrowing and alone.

“Pastores dabo vobis, I will give you shepherds,” this was God’s promise spoken through his prophet, Jeremiah. And of course, that promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus calling himself the “Good Shepherd” was a big deal. And he didn’t mean that he was like a mean dog. But Jesus wasn’t just making a clever analogy to life on a first-century farm. Since, the Old Testament speaks of God as being the “shepherd” of his people, Israel, Jesus was staking out his claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God.

The Jewish leaders suspected that that was precisely what he was doing and that was what was behind the discussion between them and Jesus about his “authority” that we heard in today’s gospel reading. And, of course, they must have felt stung when Jesus spoke about those hired hands who don’t really care for the sheep - for he was talking about them.

St. Augustine, living in 4th Century North Africa, as the Roman Empire collapsed around him, was not kind to those false shepherds who “when they took the milk and covered themselves with wool, they neglected the sheep” seeking their own cause and not Christ’s.
St. Augustine asked - as many people do today: “But will there be shepherds who seek what is Christ’s and not what is theirs, and will they be found?”

“There will indeed be such shepherds,” he answers, “and they will indeed be found; they are not lacking, nor will they be lacking in the future.” And we pray, Michael, that you will be such a shepherd.

And how better to describe the essence of the vocation to the priesthood than by saying that a priest is called to shepherd God’s people and lead them by his teaching and example to the refreshment of their souls by sharing with them the Word of God and the Sacraments of the Church, where the sheep come to recognize their shepherd’s voice and follow it.
Priests, as a shepherd of souls, must be like Jesus being willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. To walk in the company of Jesus means giving up self-interest and competing loyalties.

In celebrating the Mass and the sacraments, in teaching and in catechizing, you do what Jesus did - or better said, you allow Jesus to continue doing his saving work through you. When you baptize, you will bring men and women into a new birth; in the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church; with holy oil, you will relieve and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day not only for the people of God but for the whole world. In this, you fulfill a ministry both to God and to humanity in obedience to the Lord’s command: Do this in memory of me.

Seek, then, always to be conscious of what you do so that you always strive to imitate the sacred mysteries you celebrate. No one wants you to burn out - a candle that burns out leaves a sooty mess. A burned-out priest is a mess too. But you are expected to work hard: you are supposed not to burn yourselves out but to burn yourself up, to consume yourself in the service of Christ and his Church.

En la Segunda Oración Eucarística, siguiendo la consagración, el sacerdote celebrante reza: Te damos gracias porque nos haces dignos de servirte en tu presencia. Estas palabras, tomadas de un texto del Antiguo Testamento, describen la esencia de nuestro ministerio sacerdotal: estamos ante el Señor y estamos para Él, para su servicio. O sea, no es nuestra palabra o nuestra persona lo que predicamos sino la palabra de Cristo, la persona de Cristo. Al brindar el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo, nosotros también tenemos que dar nuestro cuerpo y nuestra sangre por la vida de nuestro pueblo.

Una vocación sacerdotal, en las palabras del Papa San Juan Pablo II, es un don y un misterio. Michael, hoy has dicho que Sí a este don y a este misterio. Que el Señor te haga digno de servirle siempre en su presencia.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us in our weakness and of Mary, Nuestra Senora de Belén, who watches over us with a mother’s love, may you always imitate the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve.


Click here to watch the Mass. Click here to see the photo album. 
500 SW 127th Avenue, Miami, FL 33184
phone: 305.223.8600 | fax: 305.227.2565 | email: webmaster@belenjesuit.org
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.