HOMILY MASS FOR DEACONS / RENEWAL OF ORDINATION PROMISES – AUGUST 10, 2020 – (Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish)
My dear brother Deacons,
This is a very special occasion for you: not only because of the Eucharistic celebration we are offering to God in thanksgiving for the gift of the diaconate, and for each one of the deacons serving in the archdiocese of Denver, but also because you will renew today the promises you made the day you were ordained. All this framed in the Feast Day of Saint Lawrence, patron saint of deacons.
The day you were ordained the Bishop asked you: “Do you resolve to discharge the office of Deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly Order and to benefit the Christian people?”, and you answered: “I do.”
The Church today offers us, in Saint Lawrence, a great example of what does it means “to discharge the office of Deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly Order and to benefit the Christian people.” He was always next to his bishop and serving the poor.
Liturgically, the Church expresses her honoring of Saint Lawrence, and her understanding of the office of Deacon, by making resound the words of Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians:
“for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so … you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Mother Church is telling us that in her heart, a deacon is a giver with a generous heart. And liturgically, the church rejoices and exalts before this reality singing in the Responsorial Psalm: “Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need. Lavishly he gives to the poor, his generosity shall endure forever.”
Definitively, for the Church the office of deacon, is such of a giver with a generous heart. Even though we are more used to hear this truth expressed with the word “service.”
My dear brother deacons, you are called to offer your office of a giver with a generous heart, in very difficult times: pandemic, with its tentacles of suffering, illness, death, family distress and despair; social unrest and injustice; persecution and vandalizing of catholic values and expressions of our faith… and you are called to be in the midst of all this, as a giver with a generous heart. But what really concerns is what it is beneath all this human tragedy. What does it mean the office of deacon in this time?
You probably know it, but last July the Congregation for Clergy published the Instruction “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church”. And this document includes some paragraphs about the office of deacon.
Right at the beginning, the Instruction recalls the current situation with Pope Francis’ words in Evangelii Gaudium: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37)” My question for you is, how do these words resound in the heart of a deacon at the thought of those innumerable crowds of people who live “without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.” How these words resound in the soul of a giver with a generous heart, especially when he contemplates what is going on, and the Pope acknowledges when he said: “It is unthinkable, therefore, that such newness, -(the newness of Jesus Christ and the Gospel)- whose propagation to the ends of the earth remains incomplete, abates or, worse still, disappears. In order for the journey of the Word to continue, the Christian community must make a determined missionary decision “capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
Deacons, as the Pope said, after the pandemic, nothing can continue in the same way. We need to re-invent ourselves in the tradition of the Church, to become missionary deacons in a missionary church; bringing your heart of a servant, your heart of a generous giver according to your specific grace and charisma.
The Instruction makes clear that in order to safeguard the identity of deacons, we must consider what Pope Francis said: “But we must be careful not to see deacons as half-priests, half-laymen. […] Likewise, the image of the deacon as a sort of intermediary between the faithful and pastors is inappropriate. Neither halfway between priests and laypeople, nor halfway between pastors and faithful… And another temptation is functionalism: it is a help that the priest has for this or that”
“The diaconate is a specific vocation… This word is the key to understanding your charism. Service as one of the characteristic gifts of the people of God. The deacon is, so to say, the custodian of service in the Church. Every word must be carefully measured. You are the guardians of service in the Church: service to the Word, service to the Altar, service to the poor”
On the day are renewing your promises, let’s us the Lord to bless each one of the deacons serving in the archdiocese of Denver, with a missionary heart, that will impregnate every single fiber of the heart of a giver you have, with the courage to try new ways, and the urgency of the mission to reach out to all our brothers and sisters in the peripheries who live “without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.”
May the Lord Jesus who called you to the office of deacons share with you the fire, urgency and even the agony he had in his heart when he contemplated the crowds so much needed of love.
He sent you to them.