Rite of Admission to Candidacy and
Institution of Acolytes for Candidates for Permanent Diaconate
Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral – September 28, 2019
Ezekial 43:1-2, 3c-7a; Ephesians 2:19-22; Matthew 9:35-38 

Today’s gospel account serves as something of a bridge for Saint Matthew, linking together displays of Jesus’ healing power and his invitation to his disciples to share in his mission to bring life and salvation to God’s people.  In the previous two chapters of Matthew’s gospel, we encounter Jesus as he heals all sorts of suffering souls.  His recognition of the plight of so many struggling lives prompts his words in today’s passage, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.”  It is hardly by coincidence, then, that in the verse immediately following today’s proclamation, we read, “And he summoned his twelve apostles and gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.”

Pope Francis reminds us of the timeliness of Jesus’ call – an invitation not simply given once to the twelve, but rather, an invitation given in every age and place to those baptized into his life, death and resurrection.  “Each day,’ the Holy Father notes, “the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity.  He has given us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples.  He invites us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one.  But he asks us to do so not merely by our words but by the witness of our lives, in daily life.”

For Pope Francis, and ultimately for Jesus, the call to discipleship requires that we embrace the gospel not merely as a set of ideals or abstract concepts but as the rule by which we struggle to live our lives as followers of Jesus.  It begins in our hearts, where we realize Christ’s presence in our lives.  It becomes life-giving to us and to others when we honor that presence in acts of compassion and love.

Today’s liturgy in which we celebrate both the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders and the Institution of the Ministry of Acolyte captures so very well the mystery of the Church and the universal call to holiness and mission that has been given to all of us through baptism and that has been spoken so clearly to those of you who are called to Sacred Orders in the Permanent Diaconate – a mystery and call reflected in the Solemnity that we celebrate today as we commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Dedication of this Cathedral Church of Saint Peter by my predecessor, William O’Hara, the first Bishop of Scranton.

This Cathedral Church, far more than being the splendid house of worship and prayer that it has been for all of the many years of its existence, reminds us of who we are as Christians.  It houses the chair – the cathedra – of the Bishop, the visible head of this local Church – the People of God who are a part of the eleven counties that we know as the Diocese of Scranton.  Through the Bishop, this local Church, in turn, is bound to the universal Church through Francis – the Bishop of Rome and successor of Saint Peter, charged by Jesus to build his Church.

Yet, through the mystery and power of God, we are not merely members of a particular parish or diocese but a part of the communion of saints, the saints of this world and the next.  …  And through the Eucharist, we are nourished for mission – nourished to respond to the charge given to us at the conclusion of every Eucharistic celebration:  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.  …  Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

My brothers who are to be admitted to Candidacy and instituted as Acolytes today, this is your mission:  to announce the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and to glorify the Lord through your service of the people he will entrust to your care.

To my brothers who are to be admitted to Candidacy – John, Martin, John, Matthew, William, Thomas, Steven, Nicholas, Stephen and Frank – you are being given the opportunity to deepen your resolve to follow the Lord Jesus and to serve the People of God.  Just as the first disciples, you have been chosen for this role.  The Church has understood this to mean that no one enters into ordained service who has not been called, chosen and sent.  The ordained ministry is not like a career which one self-selects, but a divine vocation and grace to which one strives to be faithful.

With this formal recognition of your candidacy, you enter into a new and deeper phase of formation to prepare you for the singular seal of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  While all of us as baptized followers of the Lord Jesus are called to make his example of selfless love and service a pattern for our own lives, this decision speaks to your lives in a unique manner today.  …  So seek to imitate the example of Jesus who washed the feet of his friends in humble service and then commanded them, “As I have done, so you must do.”

And to my brothers who are being instituted as Acolytes – Eugene, Joseph, John, Peter, Joseph, Gerard, Luis and Joseph – you are being called in a special way by the Church today to see with eyes of faith, the life, power and presence of Jesus in the gift of the Eucharist – the source and summit of the Church’s very existence – that which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.

It will be your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry and, as a special minister, to give Holy Communion at the liturgy and to the sick.  Because you are called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness.

In fulfilling your ministry, bear in mind that as you share one bread and one cup with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them in the Lord.  As such, live in the spirit of the commandment which the Lord gave to his apostles at the Last Supper:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  See Christ in the bread and wine that you receive and become Christ for those you serve.

Finally, to the pastors, fellow parishioners and friends of the men who are to be admitted to Candidacy and installed as Acolytes, and especially to their families and particularly their wives, please know of the gratitude of this local Church.  Your willingness to encourage our brothers to open their hearts to the call of the Lord – your selfless love and support amid their struggles to discern their place in the Lord’s plan – and your fidelity in prayer – is a blessing, especially to the lives of all those who will be touched by their ministry of service.  Thank you.

Brothers and sisters, the call to discipleship – to holiness and mission – is both a blessing and an incredible challenge.  It’s demanding – for me – for our brothers – and for every one of us baptized into Jesus.  It is, however, the only way in which we will find our peace.  And so, my brothers, assured of our resolve to love and pray for you as you continue on this journey of faith, when you are called by name, come forward and declare your intention before the Church.