Last night as we began a Holy Hour, prior to the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Andrew Kinstetter made his Profession of Faith and Deacon Oath of Fidelity. This ceremony is very simple, yet profoundly significant.
Today, this local Church gathered for Andrew’s ordination as a transitional deacon. We are very grateful for Andrew’s generous response to God’s call to serve this Church as a deacon, and eventually, as a priest.
Below is my homily for the Ordination Mass.
Deacon Ordination of Andrew Kinstetter
Cathedral of St. Mary, Cheyenne, February 6, 2015
Today is a joyous occasion as this local Church of the Diocese of Cheyenne gathers to bestow the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Andrew Kinstetter. On behalf of our community of faith we welcome all of the family and friends of Andrew who have gathered here with us today.
Andrew, as you sit before us today, you come to a significant moment of life, and in particular, to a magnificent moment in your relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks for you as he states so eloquently in the first reading: “The word of the Lord came to me: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Such is the intimacy with God that belongs to everyone who opens their heart to the truth.
Every person is brought to life by the loving, creative hand of God. Every person is created for communion with God. As the Psalmist reminds us, we are called to friendship with God. And, as if creation and salvation history did not proclaim clearly enough God’s love and intimacy for every human person, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to reveal that the love of God is indeed very intimate and very personal. And in the Gospel today, Christ himself calls us friends.
Andrew, you have come to discover this intimacy and love of God at work in your own life. By God’s grace, you have been blessed with loving parents, as well as the love of two brothers. Don and Janet, thank you for the manner in which you have manifested God’s love in the world through your married life and love, and through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. To you along with Greg and Paul, I express the gratitude of this local Church for living the demands of love in family life. Thank you especially for sharing your son and brother with the Church. Today we see concretely that the family is the seedbed of vocations for the Church.
Andrew, beyond your family you have continued to hear Christ call to you: “Come, follow me.” He has been calling and leading you for some time, indeed throughout your life. And because of your openness of heart, Christ has led you to his heart. Within his heart you have discovered the fire of divine love. The warmth of this fire has been shared with you through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, granted to you sacramentally in Baptism and Confirmation. This flame of love has provided you with light to guide you all the days of your life, and in your young years, this light revealed the desire of God’s heart; that you serve his people as a priest.
In the Gospel today, Christ invites you and all of us to remain in his love. And where Christ extends an invitation, he offers the means by which we may accept it. This love of Christ which knows no bounds, he offered throughout his earthly life and ministry. He walked with his disciples and God’s holy people. He proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, healed the sick, forgave sins, fed the hungry, admonished the hard-hearted, consoled the grieving, gave hope to the downcast, cast out demons, raised the dead to life, and finally conquered death itself by his own death and resurrection.
This love of Christ which has no limits has come to you and nourished you through His Body and Blood through the Eucharist. This love of Christ which is the fullest expression of God’s mercy you have experienced and received through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Each time we drink and draw from these sacraments, we enter into the love of Christ, and thus accept his invitation: “Remain in my love.”
Remaining in the love of Christ is the sine qua non of the sacrament you request and receive today; the sacrament of Holy Orders. Remaining in the love of Christ is the only way to faithfully live this sacrament, for to truly live this gift of Holy Orders is to give your life as gift to others in the manner you have received the gift of God’s life, the gift of friendship with Christ. Today, the Lord bestows upon you the office of Deacon, which is above all a call to live as Christ for others, and to do so by serving Christ in all others. Your life, Andrew, is now to be a ministry of charity, a manifestation of the love of Christ.
As a Deacon, you are to be a man of good reputation and continue to grow in wisdom and the Holy Spirit. (Homily from Rite of Ordination of Deacons) Having made your public profession of faith last night, you are to continually grow in faith, and the very ministry entrusted to you today will test that faith at times, which is the primary means by which it will grow. By your life and through your preaching, you are to strengthen the faith of your brothers and sisters.
From this day forward, you are no longer one who simply hears God’s Word, for as a Deacon you are entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Word to others. The Master Craftsman sends you forth today as one of his engineers and architects. By word and example, you are now sent to teach others how to excavate the shifting sands of falsehood from their lives. Through your life and ministry of charity, you are sent to help others design meaningful lives built upon the solid foundation that is the truth of the Gospel. By your example and instruction, you are to lead others from darkness into light, walking with them in the journey of discovering the joy of a fully human life found by loving God and loving one’s neighbor.
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, as a Deacon you become a close collaborator with me as your bishop, and with the priests of this diocese. You will join your brother deacons in presiding at public prayer, administrating Baptisms, assisting at and blessing Marriages, bringing Viaticum to the dying, conducting funeral rites and burying the dead. (Homily from Rite of Ordination of Deacons)
Joining the Order of Deacons also brings an obligation to pray for God’s People. More specifically, you promise to pray faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a prayer with, in and for the Church. In the Liturgy of the Hours, as a Deacon you will discover a unique manner of being in communion with all of God’s holy people. Here as in Eucharist, we discover and exercise a profound solidarity with the Body of Christ that is the People of God. This is the context in which you will exercise your ministry as a Deacon, the communion and the unity of this local portion of God’s people that is the Diocese of Cheyenne.
Andrew, today through the sacrament of Holy Orders, your own identity becomes more closely associated with Christ. This association with Christ is what has called you to this moment. Christ is now to be your sole source of strength and inspiration. He is now your sole possession. That you may remain in his love, Christ espouses you to himself. This espousal is manifest in a clear and fruitful way in the life of celibacy which you publicly promise to live.
Andrew, it is important that you be clear and honest about the promise and demands of celibacy. The promise is not just an appendage to Holy Orders. It is a call of Christ all by itself. Thus, you do not just embrace celibacy as a requirement of Holy Orders, but freely receive this call from Christ for what it is, an invitation to receive his sincere love. This love, as the love of every spouse, is his love freely and fully given to you, unconditionally. Your promise of celibacy in return is the same, a love freely and fully given to Christ. This celibate love is the source of a fruitful charity lived for God’s people, Christ’s bride, the Church. With regards to celibacy, guard against any confusion in your mind, and divisions in your heart. Now that Christ has embraced you with his love, never let him go!
Your own intimacy with Christ is to be nourished, as spouses must always be attentive to nourishing their love for each other. You will do this in a number of ways. Recognize that as you nourish this intimacy, Christ is nurturing his intimacy with you. First and foremost, we are strengthened in love and for love through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Never fail to call upon the grace of Holy Orders, which is always at work in God’s deacons, priests, and bishops.
Prayer is another fundamental life source of intimacy with the Lord. Beyond the Liturgy of Hours, spend time daily with Christ before the Blessed Sacrament. Joining to this sacred setting and time regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, you will grow in spiritual maturity, just as your body matures in age.
Never forget, love is not just a matter of the heart, but a matter of exercise. Your intimacy with Christ is nourished in a powerful way when you recognize him in those you serve, and serve him in those you love. You are now to be Christ for others, as symbolized in the Good Samaritan who tended to the needs of the man beaten and robbed and left to die in the ditch. (Luke 10:25-37) At the same time, you are to discover Christ and serve him by touching the flesh and healing the wounds of humanity today.
The exercise of charity is both physical and spiritual. This exercise of charity requires us to walk with God’s people, to rise from our desk, and depart our chapels and offices and seek out the lost and the lonely. Our physical presence in the midst of the people brings a joy that is found only in living our life in relationship with and as a gift for others.
One final admonition, Andrew; the love of Christ is infinite and unconditional. We can never merit such love. Part of Christ’s invitation to ‘remain in my love’ will be regular invitations to expand love. As a Deacon, and later as a Priest, please, never draw boundaries or place limits upon your love, or your ministry. The fire of Christ’s love burns away such stinginess of heart.
This Bishop and this Church thank you for your “Yes” today. Know that God receives your “Yes” and will multiply it for the good of his people. May our Blessed Mother who was always “Yes” to God embrace and accompany you all the days of your charitable service through the gift of Holy Orders.