Below is the full text of Bishop Brennan’s homily delivered at his installation Mass.
Very soon after the announcement of my appointment at the end of September, a good friend of mine, a classmate, sent me a text: “So, I just talked to a neighborhood guy, not a churchgoer. He said, ‘Hey Father, you guys are getting a new bishop. I hear he’s a farmer from Idaho.’ ” My friend replied, “Really, I thought he was from Ohio.” The fellow went on to explain that our new bishop wasn’t an actual farmer but that he grew up on a farm.
Now, if you didn’t know me already you can’t escape all the coverage. (I am grateful for that. DeSales Media and the local outlets have been very generous to me. I am just sorry you’ve had to endure so much of me.) And you know that I grew up and spent 50 of my 59 years right here on Long Island breathing the saltwater air.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved these last three years in Ohio. I loved the variety of life, especially coming to know and love rural life. I was ready to spend my life there and, quite honestly, kicked and screamed a little when I learned I needed to move. I met wonderful people and worked with heroic and holy priests. I wouldn’t trade these last three years for anything and will always appreciate the opportunity afforded to me. However, I did keep asking, “Where do you keep the boardwalk? How do I get to the beach?”
Somehow though, the Lord in His providence has called me back to the shore. I must admit, coming back this way, there is something familiar, even comfortable. On Friday, I went for walk exploring the area and found myself midway along the promenade to the Manhattan Bridge — looking out over the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyline of lower Manhattan, and of course the ships on the water, and in the distance, the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of welcome, a symbol of hope for immigrants, and in some ways, an icon for the Diocese of Immigrants. Now, I will say, on Manhattan Bridge I was breathing in more than saltwater air. It is a little different than the south shore of Suffolk County, but ah, this is now home. I look forward to living and praying among you and serving you with every ounce of my being.
So, today we are ALL called back to the shore. Today’s feast, and very particularly the Gospel taken from Matthew brings us spiritually, scripturally, to the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calls two sets of brothers to follow him. We hear they immediately drop their nets and follow him. Their lives would never be the same. Jesus speaks similarly to us renewing that call, “come after me.” He wants to be involved in our lives.
Andrew seems to “get” Jesus in a way that the other apostles don’t. Whereas the other apostles seem to want to protect Jesus, insulate him, keep the crowds away, Andrew is always bringing people right to him. He understands that Jesus came precisely to engage, to teach, to heal, to forgive, and to bring life — to be involved in our daily lives.
The Gospel of John tells us that Andrew brings his brother, Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” So transformed by that powerful first encounter with Christ, Andrew couldn’t help but to become a missionary, sharing that experience of encounter with his brother
Later in the Gospel, he brings the Greeks who approach Philip, and my favorite, he brings the young lad who carries the five loaves and two fish which Jesus will multiply miraculously to feed the crowd of 5,000.
This last episode gives another insight into Andrew. Do you notice how when everyone else was wringing their hands, Andrew was out and about in the crowd? In the same fashion of Jesus, he was stepping into the nitty-gritty of the reality of the people. He could sense the need, but he also knew who had something to offer. How did he come up with the loaves and the fish except by engaging and listening? He was in and among the crowd building up communion among the followers of Jesus. Frankly, it didn’t even seem like such a great idea, “there is a lad here who has five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish, but what good is that for so many?” But he brought the idea to Jesus and trusted him to decide what to do.
Andrew’s apostolic zeal is an example of what we mean by synodality: walking with; listening, engaging, and bringing to Jesus. Friends, isn’t that our task today? Isn’t that what Pope Francis speaks of in “The Joy of the Gospel”?
The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.
The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17). An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.
Amigos, en este día del apóstol San Andrés, estamos unidos como la iglesia en la diócesis de Brooklyn. Jesús nos habla como les habló a los primeros apóstoles. “Sigue me” Jesús nos extiende la mano de amistad. Él quiere vivir la vida con nosotros. Él no quiere quedarse como espectador. ¡No! El se involucra en nuestras vidas, compartiendo las alegrías y los cargos. Todo. Jesús camina en nuestra ciudad, en nuestras calles. Jesús camina con nosotros: en las alegrías y las tristezas, los éxitos, los fracasos y las esfuerzas mejores, Jesús camina con nosotros. Mis preocupaciones le importan.
Pero más, el esta en medio de todo, con los perdidos, escondidos, los viviendo en la margen, todos los que sufren.
Recuerdo muy bien la visita del Santo Padre aquí en nuestra ciudad. Recuerdo sus palabras de nosotros en Nueva York: Saber que Jesús sigue caminando en nuestras calles, mezclándose vitalmente con su pueblo, implicándose e implicando a las personas en una única historia de salvación, nos llena de esperanza.
Brother priests, I say thank you to each of you for saying yes to Our Lord’s invitation to come follow Him. Some of you are recently ordained, and some of you have been ordained for decades, but all of you share in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. I am truly grateful for your love of God and his Holy People here in Brooklyn and Queens, especially during challenging times. Like Andrew, you are out in the community, among God’s people, on the front lines of hope.
You know the needs and longings. You are involved in the lives of your parishioners, walking with them and sharing their joys and sorrows, hopes and burdens. But, also like Andrew, you’ve heard the call of Jesus, “Come and see,” “Follow me.” With these words, He has transformed your life. You are convinced that the answer to every human longing is Jesus himself. And so, you do what Andrew did. You bring people in their need to Jesus and at the same time bring the best of what we have to offer to Him so that He may transform it miraculously, to feed the crowd.
Let the Lord bring you back to the shore today, to those moments when he reached out to call you, “come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Remember the hope and joy you had on your ordination day, for many of you it was at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint James, which in 2022 will be celebrating its 200th Anniversary. Let us all remember the Joy and the hope that comes from Jesus Christ.
Today’s feast, this new season of Advent, and a new beginning of our collaboration in the work of the Gospel is a moment to reinvigorate us, to fill us with new fervor. So, my brother priests, I look forward to collaborating with you, standing shoulder to shoulder in the rewarding work of proclaiming Christ. May we all be like Andrew, may we all have the contagious joy of saying: “We have found the Messiah.”
Religious men and women, you too have given your lives to God in a very powerful way. You give your all. We thank you as well, we love you and we are all so moved by your powerful witness. In a prophetic way, you live out the charisms of your community and remind of deeper realities. How did Jesus meet you at the shore? How did he call you? Let him renew that call to you as well. We don’t do this alone, do we? We serve what Pope Francis calls an “evangelizing community.” Together, all of us, women and men in all our parishes and institutions; deacons, staff, and volunteers, we have a message that is too important to hold in: The Joy of the Gospel and the Splendor of Truth.
The world is found in Brooklyn and Queens, every language, every nationality, we truly are the Diocese of Immigrants; and together with the Joy of the Gospel, we are all called to be like Andrew and work together to share the Good News, to tell others about Jesus; to share the loaves and the fish that we have so that God will use what we have and miracles will take place.
Here in Brooklyn and Queens, for example, as parishes found ways to stay connected to people during the height of the pandemic, Catholic Charities and parishes teamed up aggressively to provide food and assistance to those who were suffering. Our Catholic Schools found safe and effective ways to bring students together to provide an environment of learning and growth. You have cared for the elderly, the ill, and the most vulnerable. These days have called for extreme charity and you responded with the heart of Jesus Himself.
Llenos de la esperanza de caminar con Cristo, ahora somos como San Andrés, misioneros de esperanza, de la sanación, de la misericordia, de la alegría del evangelio y esplendor de la verdad. ¡Qué hermoso es ver correr sobre los montes al mensajero que trae buenas noticias!
Disciples of Jesus seek always to see the deeper meanings in life: to kneel and wash the feet of one another in fidelity to Christ and to touch his wounds in the sufferings of his people. Indeed, there are so many wounds all around us: division and polarization, the scourge of racism, a loss of the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God, a throwaway culture that devalues even human life itself, violence, abuse, to name but a few.
It is Christ who heals. It is He who renews. I ask everyone here today to recall those moments of encounter with Jesus himself: calling you to service; to deeper faith; to marriage; to family; to pouring out your very life in love — even to total self-gift. Jesus, as he walks with you, is transforming your life. Lastly, to all the young people of our Diocese, be open to the calling of Christ in your lives, be open as Andrew and the others were open to the call of Jesus. Don’t be afraid to give yourself totally to him. Be bold. Always know the love that comes from God, the hope that comes from God, and the Joy that comes from being in the presence of God.
So, from the shores of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee to now those of Brooklyn Harbor, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Breezy Point, Rockaway Beach, Little Neck Flushing Bay, the East River, and Long Island Sound, let us encounter the Lord Jesus together anew. We hear his voice “Come after me, I will make you fishers of men.” May we never lose the joy of this encounter and may we be filled with that same apostolic zeal to witness boldly to the Joy of the Gospel and the Splendor of Truth.