Brian T. Olszewski The Catholic Virginian
Buoyed by the reception he received from more than 1,200 people, Bishop Barry C. Knestout began his first homily in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Friday, Jan. 12 with one word, “Wow.”
Moments earlier, following the reading of the papal bull by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and greeted by sustained applause, the former auxiliary bishop of Washington was led to the cathedra by the nuncio and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori where he took possession of the Diocese of Richmond, becoming its 13th bishop.
In welcoming the congregation, including 17 bishops, Archbishop Lori called their attention to the fact that he and Bishop Knestout look very much alike.
“We worked together very closely many years ago. We worked together so many years, we actually started to look like each other,” the archbishop said, drawing laughter.
Prior to reading the bull, Archbishop Pierre, picking up on the similarities, drew additional laughter when he said, “I have confused them myself, but we will not do that this afternoon.”
In his homily, Bishop Knestout thanked Pope Francis for entrusting the diocese to him, and continued his expressions of gratitude by acknowledging his 90-year-old mother, Caroline, and his late father, Thomas, as well as his siblings, the cardinals whom he served as secretary, including Cardinals Theodore E. McCarrick and Donald W. Wuerl who were present, and his predecessor, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo.
“Now I embrace a new family, the family of faith of Richmond,” he said.
Speaking about the Mass’s Gospel, John 21:15-17, in which Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep,” Bishop Knestout told the congregation that his initial desire is to give them “everything, yet knows he can’t.”
“I recognize my limits,” the bishop said. “Only God can satisfy all of our needs and longings.”
Referring to the multiplication of loaves and fish, and the need to feed the crowd, Bishop Knestout quoted Jesus’ words to the Apostles: “Give them something yourselves.”
“Of course, Jesus does not insist that the disciples give them “everything”! No, he says give them “some food” – to give from what they have,” the bishop said. “An act of charity and mercy – which may not seem like it will be sufficient – but it will be the “some” the Lord has commanded.”
He said the “some” the Apostles had gathered, when blessed by Jesus, fed the 5,000, as well as others.
“God asks us to give ‘something’ out of love and trust that he can bring fruitfulness from our small efforts,” Bishop Knestout said.
He encouraged them to heed that insight.
“When we encounter the significant or overwhelming needs before us, when we are conflicted inside, with both a desire to give the best of everything and the knowledge that we are very limited in ability and resources, what do we do?” he said. “We give ‘something’ out of love for them. Feed my sheep! And trust firmly that God multiplies our efforts to feed the multitudes.”
Bishop Knestout said the Mass’s first reading, Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9, spoke of glad tidings, liberty and recovery — the words with which Jesus inaugurated his ministry, adding, “Jesus, in this small passage, refers to the teaching mission, the sanctifying mission and the charitable mission of the Church.”
Noting charity was part of that recovery, he continued, “Charity – to the unborn, to the young in crisis, to the stranger, to the immigrant, to the minority, to the isolated, to the poor, to the sick, to the elderly. Charity, not harsh words, cursing and ridicule.
“My role as your bishop is to ensure this mission is carried out with fidelity in communion with the Universal Church.”
He said the Church’s work in feeding the sheep is carried out in proclaiming the Word, and by celebrating the sacraments and carrying out its charitable activities. “We as individuals are called into that activity both personally and communally,” the bishop said.
Bishop Knestout said his vision for the local Church, which was the foundation of his own priesthood and service to the Diocese of Richmond, was Christ’s vision — “the grand vision entrusted to my care.”
“May God make fruitful our efforts to provide ‘some’ – and with his blessing and guidance multiply our work together for the glory and praise of his name,” he said.