Deacon Ordination Homily
May 18, 2018
Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral – Anchorage
Acts 6: 1-7; Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13; John 15: 9-17
Love – Charity – Service
I wish to welcome all of you to this Deacon Ordination Mass. It is great to have such a broad representation of this local Church, from our priests and deacons, to our women religious and so many of our lay faithful. In a very special way, we welcome all the family and friends of our soon-to-be deacons. And most especially, we welcome you:
Gustavo & Cristine
Scott & Mary Kay
Mike & Carol
Gabriel & Carmen
Dan & Roxanna
The Big Day has finally arrived, and we are glad you persevered to this point, which is simply a new beginning.
From our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we receive the origins of the Order of Deacon. In the early Church, there were growing pains. And as the number of disciples grew, some of the basic needs of service to certain members of the Church, especially widows, were being neglected.
The Apostles first prayed, in order to discern how to meet this need, so that their own priorities of prayer and preaching would not be neglected.
Rooted in this historical moment of the Church, we discover the primary ministry of the deacon, which is service. The service of the deacon is oriented to those who are being neglected; the poor, the widow, the orphan. The Deacons’ service is fulfilled in various ways, from their practical ministry of charity to those in need, but also in their service of prayer, particularly the Liturgy of Hours, in their service at the altar and their service of the Word, as well as through the practical service of day-to-day fidelity and love within their families.
The Acts of the Apostles goes on to say:
Brothers, select from among you seven (well, we have five!) reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, … whom we shall appoint to this task, … whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
So, we see in this passage not only the defining ministry of the deacon, but also the primary vocation of the Bishop, which is prayer; prayer and preaching the Word of God. It is through the laying on of hands that the ministry of the Bishop and the Sacrament of Holy Orders is shared with others in the deaconate and the priesthood.
We also learn from the Acts of the Apostles the important role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, and so in every ecclesial vocation. I wish to make sure each of you realize that your ordination comes just days before the celebration of Pentecost! Know and believe and learn to fully rely upon the grace of Holy Orders conferred upon you today, and to always be docile and receptive to the promptings and inspirations of the Holy Spirit in your work and ministry of service.
St. Paul instructs you today in the second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians:
Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace;
The grace you receive through Christ Jesus is to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.
I find this instruction for you particularly fitting in light of the recent Listening Sessions conducted around the Archdiocese. Our people are hungering for a closer relationship with Jesus Christ; for a greater capacity, competency and courage to live their faith in Jesus. As Deacons, you are now uniquely equipped by Christ and His Church for this work and ministry. Help people draw closer to Christ, to know and live their faith with confidence. The gifts you have received, you are now to share freely in service. Call forth the gifts of God’s people, and empower them to use their gifts in similar freedom and generosity for the building up of the Body of Christ.
We draw from today’s Gospel our final instruction, and the most important; Love.
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, … This I command you: love one another.
As Pope Francis said in his visit to Milan last year, “The diaconate is a specific vocation, a family vocation that requires service.” (March 25, 2017)
Gustavo, Gabriel, Michael, Scott, Dan, each of you are married. Each of you have learned the demands of love, of marriage, of family. This is perhaps the best training and preparation you have received to serve the Church well as deacons. Make no mistake, in many ways, the family of the Church is no different than the human family. The same perseverance and willingness to forgive, and accept others for who they are and still love them at the same time is also needed in the Church. As your love is always at the center of your service to your wife and family, you too must be willing to serve the members of the Body of Christ with the same love.
Love is rarely convenient and always demanding – yet, it is the means by which Christ shares with us his joy, and where our joy is complete!
By remaining in Christ’s love, we learn to love. Having learned to love, we exercise this love in concrete acts of charity and service.
Love, Charity, Service; this is the life of the Deacon. Love, Charity, Service; this is the love with which you are loved first by God in Jesus Christ. This is the love in which the Church exists and to which we cling, for which we are called, chosen and sent.
My brothers, knowing that you are loved and chosen by Christ for service in the Church as Deacons, I invite you to now come forward with confidence in the Providence God has shown you to receive this Sacrament of Charity.