ORDINATION TO THE PERMANENT DEACONATE OF PAUL KELLY, TIMOTHY MURPHY AND EAMONN MURRAY
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Saint Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, 21st June 2014
” We gather on the eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi for the ordination to the permanent deaconate in the service of the Archdiocese of Dublin of these three candidates: Paul Kelly, Timothy Murphy and Eamonn Murray. The entire Archdiocese of Dublin rejoices with the candidates and their families and friends, with their parishes of origin and the parishes in which they have worked and with all those who worked with them in their formation.
In the Eucharist we encounter the self-giving love of Jesus who came to serve and not be served. We pray that these new deacons will day be day witness in their lives and future ministry to that Lord Jesus, who shows his Lordship in service.
We celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. We celebrate the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We celebrate the fact that in the Eucharist Jesus accompanies us visibly on our journey through life.
On this Feast of Corpus Christi we worship the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as the bread of life which nourishes us; we worship Christ’s presence as the sacrifice which alone brings us redemption and salvation; we worship Christ’s presence as the sign of what he achieves among us, as we await in faith his coming again.
The Second Vatican Council stressed that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” All the other sacraments, and indeed all ministries in the Church, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. The deaconate is not just a role or a mission; it is intimately linked with the Eucharist. If we loose sight of that link, we loose sight of the nature of the deaconate.
Our liturgy this evening is not just a ceremony like a university graduation and conferring. The rite of the ordination of the deacon is fully inserted into the liturgy of Eucharist and it is the Eucharist which sets out the path along which the deacon’s life must be conformed to Jesus Christ.
On the Feast of Corpus Christi we commemorate the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. On that night Jesus entrusted to his Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity and a bond of charity.
That self-giving love of Jesus must become the model for the deacon in his ministry in the Church. When the deacon comes to serve, he must empty himself of all selfish concerns.
The concept of service, dear deacons, must mark every aspect of your ministry. You must minister at the altar with humility. You must act as servants of the liturgy and never its master. The Liturgical Rite of your ordination calls you to: “unassuming authority, self discipline and holiness of life”
When you come to proclaim the Gospel, you must empty yourselves of your own ideas. The Rite of Ordination, at the moment in which you will receive the book of the Gospel, reminds you that your ministry consists not just in reading out a text as an actor might do. Your proclamation of the Gospel defines your life:
Receive the Gospel of Christ whose heralds you now are;
Believe what you read, teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach.
I urge you in your ministry to come to know the scriptures and to love the scriptures and in your preaching to explain the scriptures. The Gospel is not just social commentary. It is a call to conversion. The Gospel is not your own; the Gospel is received. It is not our Gospel; we receive the Gospel and the Gospel changes us.
In the liturgy at various moments the deacon is charged to call the assembly to some action or to prayer: “Let us offer each other a sign of peace”; “Bow your heads for God blessing”, “Go in peace”. In doing so the deacon is not acting as a master of ceremonies. He is leading the community and his leadership must not be one of just words, but of conforming his own life to being an instrument of peace, to being humble in prayer, to going out into the world as a witness to what the Eucharist means.
Witnessing to humility is not a witness to humiliation or negativity. Our first reading reminds us that it is alone in humility that we learn the meaning of life, that we “do not live from bread alone but through everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. The deacon is called to witness to those values that endure, rather than to a culture of superficiality and easy solutions. But in doing so, the deacon must come to realise that in his humility he witnesses to a message of liberation, to the message that God is with us and that he leads us today, just as at the time of our first reading, out of the “dreadful wilderness” and “the waterless places” of our world and our times.
There are so many today who live in the wilderness of confusion about life and who end up only by being more deeply trapped in the wilderness of addiction or violence or greed or simple empty vanity. There are many who find themselves in the waterless places of a constant seeking for hope and meaning and yet remain trapped in the superficiality of life.
The second reading reminds us that those of us who share in the Eucharist are called to witness to the unity of all humankind, and to live our lives as witness to the self-giving love of Jesus with a similar love for those who are excluded: the homeless the unemployed, the despised and the ostracised and those who are condemned to the margins of society.
The deaconate is not an honour or an assignment. It is a call to witness to an essential dimension of the Church and of the Christian life: the call to service.
The mission of the deacon is not a mission which is separated from the life of the Church. Deacons are called, rather, to witness to one of the essential characteristics of the mission of Jesus: to serve. Anyone who is called to ministry in the Church is called not to be served but to serve.
We should not define the mission of the deacon in terms of what a deacon can do or not do as opposed to other ministries. The mission of the deacon is something which crystallises an essential dimension of the Church, as the Church witnesses to Christ who serves. A self-serving Church is not the Church of Jesus Christ.
We have yet to rediscover fully the place of the deaconate within the Church. We pray that you, dear candidates, will help us through the authenticity of your lives and how you exercise your ministry to come to understand better the ministry of the deacon and the ministry of the Church herself.
Our God is not a closed God, but a God who spurs us on to go beyond ourselves driven by his love. The temptation for all of us believers is to construct a god who suits our own ideas, whether it be the god of the comfort zone who shields us from engaging with the realities of life or the god of authority who urges us to impose our god on others, either by force or by self-righteousness.
The images of god we create for ourselves are images which reflect our fears and our ambiguities in facing the real challenges of the world we live in. The gods of our creation are gods that entrap us. The God revealed in Jesus Christ is one who frees and empowers. The Church is not ours to construct, but it is ours to receive from the Spirit. The one called to service in the Church never serves in his own name.
As deacons you are called to serve the people of God. You will have noticed how when the question was put by me at the opening of this liturgy about your worthiness, that the response of the liturgical text refers in the first place not about the opinion of a formation team, but with the phrase: “after inquiry among Christ’s people”. It is the sense of faith of God’s people which discerns your worthiness and your worthiness in your future ministry will be determined not by your own self-opinion, but by how you recognise and nourish God’s people in the faith.
May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfilment.”