The beginning of the new liturgical year is a good time to mediate on how we can draw ourselves closer to God in anticipation for a new Advent. As Deacons, we like to recall those things that we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ; particularly for the poor and needy. We can probably recite what days we assist at a food bank or hand out sandwiches to those in line or the times we drop off coins with a person on the corner begging for money. Yet, in the Confiteor we ask pardon for those things we have failed to do, more commonly known as the sins of omission. So a question comes to mind concerning how well we inventory and reflect on those situations where we neglect those we encounter that God has put into our midst.
Advent is not just a season when we prepare for the coming of Jesus as an infant in a manger. It is also a time to anticipate the coming of Our Lord in glory at the end of time. Recount in the Gospel of Matthew, on the Feast of Christ the King, where on the last day, we will be judged for those times when we did not provide for the needs of those who were sent by Jesus into our midst—the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, and lonely. Indeed, our accountability is not only for those we are appointed to assist; but, also for those that we might normally ignore. Perhaps this is the theme that needs deep contemplation as we anticipate Our Lord coming as the Supreme Judge over the living and the dead.
As extensions of the Archbishop’s diakonia, we are called to respond to those who are not being reached. In particular, Deacons are to seek out and touch our brothers and sisters that are not being helped through the parish ministries within the Church. In other words, we have a vocational obligation to “search” out those starving for help and thirsting for God. Our Lord tells us that when we do not do these acts of mercy for our brothers and sisters, we are rejecting Him! So where do we start looking for Jesus in those that are being ignored?
We can begin by listening to the echoes of helplessness and fatigue that are present in the Chalice as we prepare the offerings for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is in the gifts brought up during the offertory procession that we receive the silent tears and woes of those in the congregation, which go unheard if we do not respond. These pleas are from mothers of children that are away from the Church, they are the worries of fathers who have broken relationships with family members, and they are the sighs of exhaustion from siblings searching for a loved one who wanders the streets or is lost to addictions. And while the faithful pray to God for help, many still feel that no one is listening. As a servant of Jesus Christ, we need to listen and respond.
To do this, requires Deacons to extend ourselves past the walls of our parish building or even the boundaries of the parish property lines. Indeed, the call of the Icon of Jesus Christ, the Servant directs us beyond the reaches of our collective comfort zones. The ministry of the Deacon challenges us to seek out those craving for God’s love. Often these individuals are the recipients of the angst and prayers realized within the congregation during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Some of the needy merely want forgiveness, others comfort and still others simply want validation of God’s presence in their lives. And yes, there are plenty that are in need of temporal necessities that deserve our attention. Our radical availability to Jesus Christ requires us to respond by being His Hands and Feet through serving such as these and allowing God to answer the prayers of the devout.
This Advent Season gives us a wonderful opportunity to begin putting our ears to the wood of the crosses brought to us in the form of bread and wine. To do so, requires us to embrace these crosses and hold them tightly to our heart where the Holy Spirit dwells. Advent might also be a good time for Deacons to spend time during evening prayer examining our conscience each day to evaluate each encounter and discover whom we may have ignored. Then, pray to God in His Mercy to forgive us and to help us never let a soul go by without seeing His Face in their pleas.
May we, as servants of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, bear witness to helping the neglected by giving ourselves to those who are seemingly being ignored through omission. And may the grace of God, which exceeds all human understanding, be a source of strength for us whenever we recognize that by passing up someone in need, is passing up an opportunity to meet with Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
Mary, Mother of the Poor, prayer for us