Installation of Acolytes
October 2, 2021
I Kings 19:4-8; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

 Some time ago, Pope Francis reflected upon the journey of life and faith.  He said, “There is something striking about the Gospels:  Jesus is often walking and he teaches his disciples along the way.  This is important,” the Holy Father noted.  “Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology … but rather ‘a way’, a journey to be undertaken with him, and we learn the way as we go, by walking.  Yes, dear brothers, this is our joy:  to walk with Jesus.”

Let’s reflect a bit on the journey of Jesus as shared by Saint Luke in today’s gospel.  Luke begins the story with Jesus speaking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing all those who needed to be cured.  As the day was drawing to a close, Jesus’ disciples expressed concern about the hungry crowds and suggested that Jesus dismiss them so that they could find lodging and food.

What follows is an exchange between Jesus and his disciples that led to the feeding of thousands of people with five loaves and a couple of dried fish – the only one of Jesus’ miracles recounted in all four gospels.  Woven into the journey of Jesus is his desire and intention to feed and sustain the People of God with nourishment that will provide for their deepest needs.

The Eucharistic overtones in the feeding of the multitude are obvious.  What may be less obvious in the feeding of the multitude, but hardly insignificant, is the fact that Luke’s version heightens the role of the disciples in the process of feeding of the crowds.  Don’t lose the significance of this fact.

In response to their request of Jesus that he dismiss the hungry crowds in order that they might find food, Jesus responds, “Give them some food yourselves.”  While not anticipating that Jesus would engage them in feeding the crowds, the disciples nonetheless know how much food is available, thereby setting the stage for Jesus’ to work his miracle.  …  Finally, the disciples are instructed by Jesus to have the crowds sit down in order to be fed.  They then serve as distributors of the food, as Jesus gave the loaves and fish first to the disciples, who, in turn, give them to the crowds.  …  The fact that the disciples are actually the ones through whom the crowds experience the lavish generosity of Jesus points to the manner in which Jesus will continue to provide for his people long after he ascends to his Father – namely, in and through the work of his Church.

And so, recognizing the unique responsibility given by Jesus to his disciples to be his instruments in bringing his life and salvation to our world, I invite you my brothers who will receive the ministry of Acolyte to reflect with me and this community upon the unique work to be entrusted to your care.

You are called in a special way by the Church today to see with eyes of faith – beyond bread and wine – the life, power and presence of Jesus himself in the gift of the Eucharist – the source and summit of the Church’s very life – that builds up the Christian community and enables it grow.

In your service to the Church as Acolytes, it will be your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as a special minister to give Holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick.  Yet, my brothers, it is also vital that you understand that for as great a gift as you are being given, there is a responsibility that goes with what you receive.  The living presence of Jesus compels you – and all of us – to more than simply a posture of wonder, gratitude and awe.  …  Let me put this in another way.

There’s a story that was told by Saint Theresa of Calcutta of a poor woman who came to Mother Teresa’s soup kitchen to beg for rice for her children.  Mother Teresa took the woman’s pail and filled it with rice from the kitchen’s bin.  After thanking Mother for her kindness, the woman took out a second container and poured half of the rice into it.  When asked by a visitor why the woman did that, Mother Teresa explained that the second container was for another family near the woman’s house who could not make the long trek to the soup kitchen.  The saint was then asked why she did not offer to fill the second container for the woman.  she answered, “Because I did not want to deprive her of the blessing of sharing.”

Like that woman who served her poor neighbors even in her own need – and like the disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel who were used by the Lord to feed thousands of hungry people on a hillside in Galilee – all of us, brothers, are challenged to both give thanks for all that we have been given and to use what we have been given for the sake of others – without counting the cost, setting conditions or demanding a return.

In our second scripture reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we hear words of Jesus at the Last Supper, “This is my body that is for you.  …  This cup is the new covenant in my Blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  Is it reasonable to think that in directing us to do such actions in remembrance of him, Jesus is solely instructing us to repeat a ritual?  …   No.  Jesus is also extending to us the expectation that we will embrace the pattern of his life – a body broken and blood poured forth for the sake of those he loved.

So share with your people the Bread of Life that is Jesus.  …  And give to your people the dignity, respect, and care that flow from the example of Jesus’ selfless love and service.  …  In short, my brothers, make as our own the words of Saint Augustine:  “Become what you receive.”  …  Become for the poor – the marginalized – the broken – and the lost – the selfless, loving Jesus who brings healing, life and hope to our world.