Ordination to the Diaconate – 25 May 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-9; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 20:25b-28

As we continue to give thanks for the great gift of Easter, our celebration this day truly bears the fruit of the risen Jesus in our midst.  It is in Jesus’ name and through the power of his suffering, death and resurrection that we call forth our brothers – Jonathan Kuhar, Kevin Miller and Shawn Simchock – to the Order of the Diaconate for service to the People of God in this local Church of Scranton.

What a blessing this day is for these three men, for all of us, and particularly for those of you who have been entrusted with the care and formation of our brothers throughout their lives that has enabled them to arrive at this faith-filled moment.

To their families, thank you for your commitment, your example, your support and the gift of Jonathan, Kevin and Shawn to the Church.

To the parishes and schools that our brothers have attended over the years, particularly Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts and Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, represented today by Father Ed Griswald, to Father Scott Detisch of the Diocese of Erie who spent the last week conducting the retreat for our brothers who will be ordained, to our diocesan vocation team led by Father Don Williams, Monsignor David Bohr and to all of the priests, deacons, religious, and faithful who, through your example and concern have helped to prepare these men for ministry in the Church, please know how grateful we all are to you.

Finally, to Father Evanko, our host pastor today and the entire parish community of Saint Jude, thank you for your hospitality and welcome.

Some of you may wonder why today’s diaconate ordination is being celebrated in Saint Jude’s Church.  Believe it or not, we’re not here to showcase a great parish and a beautiful new church – although that certainly is a wonderful byproduct of this moment.  We’ve gathered here in Mountaintop for other reasons.  Saint Jude’s is Jonathan’s home parish.  We also stand in close proximity to Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Dorrance, where Kevin’s mother is a member.  And we’re not far from the Hazleton area where Shawn grew up and where his faith was first nurtured.

Our proximity to the faith communities that have helped to nurture the vocations of these three men remind us that at the heart of the ministry that will soon be entrusted to their care are the people of God.  None of us is ordained for ourselves or to achieve some personal sense of accomplishment.  We are called by God and sent forth for mission – sent forth to serve God’s holy people.

This reality provides a depth of meaning to the words that I will speak to Jonathan, Kevin and Shawn in just a few moments, “Dear Sons, before you enter the Order of the Diaconate, you must declare before the people of God your intention to undertake this office.”  So many of you who are gathered here today will enable our brothers to make that declaration with great resolve and determination, for it will be rooted in their experience of the risen Jesus poured forth in your lives.  …  Thank you so very much for your presence in their lives!

And why is this reality so integral to this moment in the life of the Church?  Because the Sacrament of Holy Orders comes from and is rooted in the life of the Lord Jesus – who came to save us from sin and the brokenness of our world – who came to bring us new life – and who, as noted in the second reading today from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, gives to the Church “roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ.”  So brothers, consider carefully the call to which you’ve responded.

You are about to enter ordained ministry at a unique and critical time in the life of our Church.  In so many ways, our people are disillusioned and unsettled by actions that should have never taken place and by Church leaders who let them down.  Yet, these same faithful souls continue to look to the Church and to the Lord whom we proclaim as their greatest hope.  As you yourselves have noted, the Church needs you now, more than ever!  Give God’s people reason to hope.

Brothers, we are all grateful today for your willingness to embrace Jesus’ call to service.  Yet, never fail to remember that the context for your response to the Lord’s call is ever so human.  In the verses just prior to those proclaimed in today’s gospel, we hear how the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples approached Jesus and asked for a favor for her sons: positions of prominence in the Kingdom.  It’s clear that the disciples of Jesus didn’t always understand and often allowed themselves to get in the way of the Lord working in and through them.  All of us in this church today are no different than James and John, or any of the other disciples – and neither are you.  We are called to serve the People of God but sometimes we get in the way.

Listen again to the words of Jesus, who calls you to this moment:  “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”  …  Jesus’ teaching about the servant leadership that he exemplified is opposed to any sense of entitlement, power or prestige in the life of the Church.  As such, all Church leaders must be wary of assuming an attitude of clericalism that for too long has oppressed and burdened our people more than we might imagine or believe.  Instead, we are called to imitate the servant leadership embodied by Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples and, in so doing, gave us the supreme example of holiness and mission.

So brothers, if you want your ministry as a deacon to be fruitful, never forget that the source of its fruitfulness is nothing other than the Lord’s life and love.  …  Make no mistake about it; the Spirit of God will work in and through you in spite of your own human frailties.  Yet that guarantee demands that you give yourself – whole and entire – to the ministry entrusted to you this day – not only by working hard – but also by leading a life of holiness and intimacy with Christ.  …  So seek to live with integrity a life of celibacy, obedience and simplicity – a life that is marked, molded and characterized by the way of thinking and acting that is proper to Christ.

Your service to the People of God as deacons is a threefold ministry.  …  As deacons, you will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, convey the needs of the people of God in the General Intercessions and proclaim Christ to the world.  Yet in receiving the Gospel of Christ, remember that it is his Gospel that you preach, not yours.  It is the Truth of Jesus Christ that you proclaim, not yourself. 

As deacons, you will also serve at the altar of the Lord, preparing it for the banquet of Christ’s sacrifice, distributing Holy Communion to the faithful, as well as to the sick and homebound.  You will baptize, preside at weddings, funerals, and other prayer services.  …  Be good servant of the Church’s sacramental life and always point to Jesus who is our life and our hope.

Finally, as deacons, you are called to be the living and working expression of the charity of the Church.  To you, then, is entrusted in a special way the ministry of charity that is at the very origin of the institution of the deacon.  As Pope Francis reminds us often, you are to go to the margins of our world and our lives where you will find the poor and the broken.  Serve them generously, as Jesus served us all the way to the cross.

Brothers, more than ever, God’s People are looking for meaning, purpose and peace in their lives – and they will look to you to see Jesus.  They will look to see Jesus in your prayerfulness – in your words – in your hard work – in the simplicity of your life – and in your love.  They will look to you for so much.  …  In return, they will walk with you and they will support you every step of the way.

So Jonathan, Kevin and Shawn, “have no fear,” as Jeremiah the prophet proclaims.  Proclaim your intentions before the People of God and trust that God who has begun the good work in you will bring it to fulfillment.