Homily for ordination of permanent deacons June 11
St. Mark the Evangelist Church
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:10).
We still cannot take our minds off the dozens of faithful who were recently murdered in Nigeria out of hatred for the faith. The Lord allowed them to bear witness at the cost of their own lives. In Him we hope that their blood irrigates the earth for a great harvest of hope and charity for the whole Church.
In the midst of so many difficulties and tragedies, which we have had to face recently, this day of joy is a refreshing gift from the Lord. It is possible because you have made yourself available through your own gift of self, to participate in God’s own gift of self. Also through the offering of your own sacrifice to serve, the Lord is preparing that harvest of hope and charity.
The blood of the martyrs is not alien to us. And our recognition includes your wives, the rest of your family members and friends as well.
Yes, this is a day of great joy – but it comes with a serious cost. You have declared that you are “present”. More than just being here I know that you mean that you are present to God’s will for you and for the mission upon which you are being sent. You are a gift already and the diaconate further configures you to be God’s gift for his People. He will make of you a new creation and the summary of your description is: servant of all. The Lord sends you to do his work and not your own. Your task is to love God’s People as Jesus has loved you, knowing that he has loved you as the Father loves Him.
God will place his words of love in your mouth and call you to preach that Good News to the world.
You are being charged with proclaiming the risen Lord and his gospel boldly and faithfully. The pulpit is a sacred place where we exercise a sacred duty. You will draw new strength from the gift of the Holy Spirit to help the bishop and his body of priests as a minister of the word, of the altar, and of charity, “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…” (Eph).
Anyone receiving ordination, regardless of the degree and no matter his age, can easily identify with Jeremiah’s words: “Ah Lord God, I do not know how to speak. I am too young.” I am not worthy. I am not qualified. God’s response is very reassuring: I know you well! “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… Have no fear… I am with you…”
As ordained members of God’s Holy People, you will participate in the Lord’s ministry, so it is He who will work through you for the service of his Body. You will be first row witnesses inasmuch as you continue to be available to him, despite your own selves.
As ministers of the altar you will prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord’s body and blood to the community of believers. You will preside over public prayer, baptize, assist at marriages and bless them, give viaticum to the dying, and lead the rites of burial. You are to perform these and all works of charity in the name of the Church. Pope Francis reminds us ministers: “What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.”
May Our Lady of Guadalupe help you bring to perfection the gift that the Lord has prepared through you.