Homily at the 50th Anniversary Mass

for Monsignor Preston A. Moss

St. Anselm Parish, Nassau, Bahamas

June 4, 2015

 

Readings:

Sirach 2:1-11

II Corinthians 4:5-7

Mark 12:28-34

 

There is no doubt, that we have gathered for a joyful celebration this evening.  We have gathered for a thankful celebration.  We have gathered to celebrate a mighty milestone in the life of a person, a parish, an Archdiocese and I dare say, a nation.

We come to celebrate a journey, an adventure which began on June 4, 1965.

Many here, many in our population, were not born then.  50 years of committed life and service is an uncommon achievement.  50 years of priestly ministry here among us is nothing short of a testimony to grace itself.

When I was first asked to speak on this occasion, I declined.  I had spoken at Msgr. Moss' 40th Anniversary, ten years ago.  For his 50th  I felt unequal to the task.  I felt that he should be the one to speak.  But then he himself came and asked.  And I knew I had to respond positively.  To grant his wish was the right thing to do.

Monsignor Moss became a Catholic as a teenager.  He brought to the Church many talents which would flourish in his ministry.  He is a man of enormous compassion.  He possesses an exquisite sense of pastoral judgment.  He is a marvelous preacher.  That is pretty well-known.  What is perhaps less well-known is that he is a very fine musician.  He is also an excellent cook.  Indeed, Msgr. Moss is a connoisseur of many things, many things, especially vacations.

As a man and as a priest, he is deeply rooted in the Sacred Scriptures.  Spend any amount of time with him and you soon learn that he knows the Scriptures very, very well.  The Scriptures are as dear to him as the food he eats and the air he breathes.  So when he puts the Word of God before us for our reflection on the occasion of his 50th Anniversary, we need to take careful notice.

Let us take careful notice, for example, of the words of Sirach proclaimed on this happy occasion.

"My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.  Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of adversity, cling to him, do not leave him, that you may prosper in your last days."  (Sirach 2:1-3)

Sirach, the wisdom of Ben Sira, which is the Wisdom of the Church, goes on to say: "... in periods of humiliation, be patient. For in fire gold is tested, ... trust in God, and he will help you, make your ways straight and hope in him."  (Sirach 2:4-6)

On this occasion these words are worth our time, our thought, our deepest reflection.  On this occasion these words are most fitting, most appropriate.  I have taken time with them because I know that these words represent no less than the narrative of the priestly vocation of Preston Alexander Moss.

He was ordained a priest at a time when our church had undertaken the difficult challenge of renewing itself.  This all followed in the wake of, and according to, the mandate of a phenomenon we know as the Second Vatican Council.

The waves of renewal affected different people in different ways.  In those challenging days of this renewal a promising, young Bahamian presbyterate was almost completely lost.  From among them only one Bahamian priest out of seven remained.  And he remained for 50 years!

But those years, especially the earlier ones, could not have been easy for the one young priest who remained.  There must have been questions and criticisms and perhaps even words and gestures of disrespect from friend and foe.

No doubt during that painful passage when all left and he alone remained, young Fr. Preston must have sought solace and comfort and wisdom in Sacred Scripture.  No surprise he would be drawn to words like these:

"Consider the generations long past and see:  has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?  Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken?  Has anyone called upon him and been ignored?  For the Lord is compassionate and merciful:  forgives sins and saves in time of trouble."  (Sirach 2:10-11)

Again, these words are the narrative of a vocation to the priesthood which has lasted 50 years.  That is longer than any other Bahamian Catholic priest of this Archdiocese.  His ministry, his commitment, his endurance, his perseverance is Sacred Scripture proclaimed eloquently in human flesh.

In his wisdom, our good Monsignor, has left us even more Scripture to nourish us on this occasion.  Recall for a minute some words from Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians.

"We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord ... we hold this treasure in earthen vessel, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us."  (II Corinthians 4:5-7)

The preacher, however eloquent he is, must be a transparent medium.  Christ must shine through him.  The ways of Christ must be evident in him.  The values of Christ must be present in him.  Indeed we preach much more convincingly by our actions than by our words alone.  It is good to know the priest.  It is essential though to know Christ whose minister the priest is.

I believe Monsignor Preston Moss has been a rare and worthy example to us in this regard.  For that reason and for many others, there is this great outpouring of love, admiration, appreciation and gratitude today.

What is the value of his example in the life of our country today?  We live in a democracy.  But a democracy is not merely a machine we can set on automatic and allow to do its work properly.  No, a democracy is a community of persons.  For it to work well, for it to flourish, requires that its citizens live certain virtues all the time.  Among those virtues are honesty, hard work, civility, respect for law, respect for life, respect for time, commitment and even sacrifice.

You can develop your personal score-card to measure how well you do at these virtues.  If you observe them, you strengthen our democracy.  If you avoid them, you weaken our democracy.  Whatever you do will have its effect good or bad for all of us to experience.

Yesterday was the Feast of Sts. Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba and the Uganda Martyrs.  These were men whose commitment in faith led to the shedding of their blood as martyrs.  They are modern African saints regarding whose example Pope Paul VI said:  "A people need a moral foundation and spiritual customs firmly planted and handed down from generation to generation."

The vocation, the priesthood, the life, the ministry of Preston Alexander Moss over these past 50 years is a shining example of what Paul VI was speaking of.

On this joyful occasion we give thanks to God for the gift, the grace of these 50 years of Priesthood.  We say with hearts filled with more gratitude than words could ever convey.  Monsignor, Happy Anniversary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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