12th Sunday of the Year 2013 ORDINATION OF PERMANENT DEACONS Homily Notes of Archbishop of Dublin, Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 23rd June 2013
“This evening’s ceremony is an important event in the life of the Archdiocese of Dublin as we ordain three further permanent deacons who will serve our diocese and our parishes. I congratulate the candidates and I thank their families, their formators and the parish communities from which they spring.
Together with the eight permanent deacons ordained last year, the Church in Dublin witnesses in your ministry another step in the restoration within our Church of the ancient order of permanent deacons, following the indications of the Second Vatican Council. We are still rediscovering in our pastoral practice what the contribution of deacons to Church life is. The Vatican Council, in fact, considered the restoration of the ministry of the permanent deaconate as one of its most significant achievements. I believe that in the coming years we will come to understand and appreciate more deeply this special calling and my prayer is that more and more candidates will present themselves this ministry in response to the call of the Lord.
Dear candidates, ministry in the Church is not about power but about calling and witness. Your call to the deaconate today is a call to be configured in a special way to Jesus who serves and to represent in a special way in the life of the Church Jesus who serves.
Witnessing and representing the Jesus who serves is to contribute something vital and irreplaceable to the life of the Church. Witnessing to the Jesus who serves is of course part of the mission of every Christian, lay and ordained. It is part of the mission of the priest and the bishop. But the deaconate is a special witness in the Church reminding the entire community of this dimension of the mission to service and calling the entire community to serve.
Your configuration to Jesus who serves must from today onwards become part of your identity, something you must fully integrate into the way you live. All ministry in the Church is service. It must reach out. Whenever ministry looses the characteristic of service and reaching out then it degenerates into the opposite to ministry, to self-indulgence and self-promotion.
Pope Francis gave a remarkable talk at the meeting of the Cardinals just before the Conclave that elected him successor of Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome. It was a single handwritten page. The dominant word was la periferia: “the periphery”, “the outskirts”, “the frontiers”. He said that the Church is called boldly to break out of herself and go towards the outskirts, not only the outskirts of place but also to the outskirts and the frontiers of human existence. Pope Francis added when the Church does not break out of herself in that way she becomes self-referential: closed in within itself, thinking only of itself.
Often our discussions on renewal in the Church can drift into being introverted and focused on inner-Church quarrels and become almost narcissistic. Pope Francis noted that at times we feel that the failures in evangelization are due to the fact that so many in today’s world are closed to God; that when Jesus knocks on our doors we do not let him in. The Pope however counters that by adding: “we also fail at times when Jesus knocks from within and we do not let him out”.
However, if we are to allow Jesus and his message to break out into the frontiers of society through our lives and our ministry, then we must have allowed Jesus to enter into our lives in the deepest sense. This requires that we must fully understand the two questions posed in today’s Gospel reading: “Who is Jesus Christ?” and “what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”
Actually the formulation of the first question is slightly different: “Who do the crowd say that I am”. Still today the question of ‘who Jesus is’ is posed by different people and in different circumstances. Still today many different answers are given – many of them wrong and off the beam or only partially true. Our personal understanding of Jesus is naturally shaped by our own experience and faith. The danger is that we get a wrong idea of who Jesus is or that we make one up which simply suits ourselves. The apostles did not fully understand who Jesus was, but at least they responded within the framework and the interpretation of the religious culture that they knew. They rightly link the identity of Jesus with the great figures of the Old Testament. In out times it is much easier to fall into a distorted idea of Jesus because the lens through which we judge reality is so often not that of a deep religious culture but a secularised one.
Peter seems to identify Jesus for who he really is. But then Jesus gives him strict orders not to talk about this to anyone. Why is this? It comes back to another temptation for all of us. We can think easily that our discovery of who Jesus is is the definitive one, whereas our answer must be an answer that we deepen day by day, through our prayerful reflection on the scriptures and through our understanding of the scripture. Our understanding of who Jesus is and what he means in our life requires constant and prayerful self-examination and thus conversion.
This leads to the second question: “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?” Jesus calls on us to renounce ourselves. Self-renunciation is not always a welcome concept in a world where self-affirmation is central to our life-philosophy. The Gospel stresses unambiguously, however, that the call to self-renunciation is not a call for some, but for all, for everyone who wishes to follow Jesus. Everyone must take up his or her cross! It is not a question that some of us find ourselves burdened by a particularly heavy cross and others are simply lucky not to have to do so. Your calling as deacons is to renounce any temptation towards self-centeredness, towards using ministry and using others really for your own needs. When sacred authority is exercised not as ecclesial service, but in our own interest, it is a betrayal of sacred authority.
The call to take up the cross is not a negative call to self-annihilation, to a masochistic hatred of self or a disregard for self. Yet neither is it pure metaphor. Taking up the cross means that we fight continuously against that egoism and self-justification which constantly threatens us, a temptation to think of myself as the measure of reality and relationships, rather than allowing myself to be freed to serve others and to generate thoughts not of self-importance but thoughts words and action which foster a spirit of genuine care and love for others, as Jesus revealed God through his self-giving love. Pope Francis speaks very clearly about the place of the cross in the life of the Christian especially the one called to ministry: “When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, deacons, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord”.
Just some moments ago I enquired about your worthiness for service as deacons. The reply spoke about “enquiry among the people of Christ”. The gift of your faith has been nourished and nurtured by the people who belong to the Church communities out of which you have sprung. In a few moments you will be asked by me to explain before Christ’s people your intentions as you approach ordination. God’s people has been instrumental in bringing you to the life of faith. Now you are called to serve that people by unassuming authority, self disciple and hominess of life. Christ’s people in this Archdiocese of Dublin welcome you into your new ministry and assure you of our prayers, as through my ministry of prayer and the laying on of hands the Holy Spirit strengthens you by his grace to carry out faithfully the work of your ministry. ENDS
- Jimmy Fennell is a parishioner of St. Agnes Parish, Crumlin who runs man who runs his own electrical repair business. He has been actively involved in the Brú Youth Service in Crumlin and spent many years as an officer in the Naval Reserve
- Michael Giblin, from Knocklyon, is married to Eileen. They have three children. He is an IT Manager and has been actively involved for many years in St. Colmcille’s Parish, serving among other things as Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council.
- Derek Leonard is a parishioner of St. Mochta’s Parish, Porterstown, where he lives with his wife Orla and their son and daughter. A businessperson, Derek has been involved in the parish faith-friends programme, helping children to prepare for Confirmation.