Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
“We must always place our trust in the Lord and allow his love to urge us on. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all;” Cor. 5:14.
What a joy it is for me to join with you this afternoon in Pallotti House, Dundrum, to celebrate the Ordination to the Deaconate of Liam O’Donovan and Charles Lafferty, who come before us to be raised to the Order of Deacons. We must consider carefully the ministry to which they are to be promoted.
Liam and Charles will draw new strength from the gift of the Holy Spirit. They will help the Provincial and his body of priests as Ministers of the Word, of the Altar, and of Charity. They will make themselves servants of all. As ministers of the altar, Liam and Charles will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord’s body and blood to the community of believers.
It will also be their duty, at the Provincial’s discretion, to bring God’s word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptise, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once they are consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes to us from the apostles and is bound more closely to the altar, they will perform works of charity in the name of their Superior. From the way they go about these duties, may you recognise them as disciples of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served. Priests and Deacons are called to serve, not to be served. We as priests must never lose sight of our calling – we are called to serve the people of God.
The Holy Father recently spoke of the “Seven Pillars” of Priesthood. He said:
- The strength of a priest depends on his relationship with God.
- The priest must be close to the people he serves.
- A priest’s authority must be linked to service, especially to the care and protection of the poorest, weakest, the least important and most easily forgotten.
- The priest must be a minister of mercy.
- The priest is called to simplicity of life.
- The priest must be a model of integrity.
- The priest must be a source of blessing for his people.
Liam and Charles, if you embrace these “Seven Pillars” of priesthood in your service as deacons, and God willing, in your service as priests, your own lives and the lives of the people of God entrusted to your care will become even greater enriched by the experience.
The theme chosen by Pope Francis for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which began on 8th December last, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is “Be merciful like the father” from the Gospel of Luke. Scripture invites us to follow the merciful example of the Father “Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned, forgive, and you will be forgiven.“ Luke 6:36.
The logo chosen by Pope Francis for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is on the vestment I am wearing this afternoon is that of the Good Shepherd – the Good Samaritan. In the Gospel, the parable of the Good Samaritan speaks of a man assaulted and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! How often do we say: it’s not my problem! How often do we turn the other way and pretend not to see! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). We must do our very best to be that good Samaritan, to look out for one another, to care for one another. I believe each one of us has a call to make the world a better place and if each of us can make a difference in just one person’s life – and help that person on their journey – we will be doing as the good Lord asks of us – we will be that Good Samaritan. Indeed, it is in giving that we receive.
In the words of Emeritus Pope Benedict: “Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse.” (Spe Salvi, 48).
Liam and Charles, you are being raised to the Order of Deacons. The Lord has set an example for you to follow. As deacons you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others. Do the will of God generously. Serve God and humankind in love and joy. Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no one can serve two masters.
Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be men of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and humankind that you are above every suspicion of blame, a true minister of Christ and of God’s mysteries, a man firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God’s word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts. On the last day, when you go to meet the Lord, you will hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
It is not the easiest time to be a priest or deacon, but it is not the worst of times. Being a priest or Deacon can be challenging, but nothing that is worthwhile in life comes easy, quite often life can be a challenge and a challenge can teach us something too. Each of us has our own personal struggles in life – our own personal challenges – nothing in life that is of such goodness comes easy. A life of service requires on-going dedication, commitment, perseverance and renewal. When we apply these wonderful virtues in our lives we can achieve what can often appear to be – the impossible. Change can be difficult. However, to quote a famous priest and prophet from the 19th Century, Cardinal John Henry Newman, “To grow is to change and to mature is to have changed many times.” We must always place our trust in the Lord and allow his love to urge us on. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all;” Cor. 5:14.
Our prayer for Liam and Charles today is that the good Lord will bless them with an abundance of all that is good as they begin their service as deacons to the people of God entrusted to their care in the Vineyard of the Lord.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
+ Séamus Freeman, SAC.,
Bishop of Ossory.