Ordination to the Diaconate – 28 May 2022
Acts 10:37-43; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; John 21:15-17

As we continue to give thanks for the great gift of Easter, it is in Jesus’ name and through the power of his resurrection that we call forth our brother – Michael Boris – to the Order of Diaconate for service to this local Church of Scranton.

What a blessing this day is for Michael, his family, for our Diocese and particularly for all those who have helped him to arrive at this faith-filled moment.

To Michael’s parents, Joe and Susan and to his entire family, thank you for your steadfast commitment, example, and support of Michael.  I know that he deeply values the bonds of love that you have forged in your family.  They will serve him and the Church well throughout the course of his ministry.

And to all who have been a part of Michael’s life over the years:  to the faithful members of his home parish of Saint Andre Bessette who have prayed for him and who are so incredibly proud of him and his pursuit of a priestly vocation; to the good people of his adopted parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Rose of Lima in Carbondale where Michael served a pastoral year and is assigned for summer ministry, where he fine-tuned his skills in playing drums, and where he developed a deeper appreciation of his role in caring pastorally for God’s people; to the faculty and staff of Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, represented today by Father William Burton; and to our diocesan vocation team led by Father Alex Roche, to Monsignor David Bohr and to all of the priests, deacons, religious, and faithful who, through your example and concern have helped to prepare Michael for ministry in the Church, please know how grateful we all are to you.

While we ordain one man today, it is so apparent that it takes the entire Church to nurture and bring a vocation to fruition.  That great gift of the Church, in turn, is a reminder to all of us who have been called to Holy Orders – and especially to you, Michael – that 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 – to serve God’s holy people.

We ought never lose sight of this reality!  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.”

Addressing participants at a Catholic National Congress on Hispanic Ministry just a month ago, Pope Francis noted that “We are living in an absurd time in which, without having yet come out of a pandemic that has afflicted all humanity with great suffering and sorrow, we find ourselves in the midst of the suffering and tragedy of a war.”  He implored those present, “Be Christians who transform the world and who create bridges in all sectors of society, illuminating thought, so that it may lead to actions that can bring peace and unity at all levels, starting from our families and communities.”  The Holy Father went on, “I need peace, you need peace, the world needs peace.  We all need tangible signs of peace. Christians must set the example.”

Michael, you are about to enter ordained ministry at a unique and critical moment in the life of our Church.  So consider carefully the call to which you’ve responded.   In so many ways, as Pope Francis noted, our people are hurting, disillusioned and unsettled – by a health crisis that won’t seem to end – by a war in a far-off land that strangely is impacting our own lives more than we ever imagined – and by a world that seems to increasingly disregard the values of the Gospel for which Jesus gave his life.  Yet, our people continue to look to the Church and to the Lord whom we proclaim as their greatest hope.  …  Michael, the Church needs you now, more than ever!  Give God’s people reason to hope.

Recall Saint Paul’s words from his letter to the Church at Ephesus proclaimed just a moment ago:  “Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  Believe with all your heart, Michael, that God’s Spirit rests upon you this day and will pour into your life grace and mercy to enable you to bring hope, healing and peace to the people God gives to your care.  For your part, be steadfast in holding on to the treasure of God’s love.

In today’s gospel, Jesus three times asked Peter – the rock upon whom he would build his church – “Do you love me?”  Obviously, Jesus’ three-fold question to Peter finds its source in the disciple’s three-fold denial of Jesus as he embraced his passion.  Yet, what is so amazing in the exchange between Jesus and Peter is that Peter’s denial was not the last word.  …  Jesus’ invitation to “follow” was – as Jesus yet again affirmed the all too human Peter and called him to engage the mission of evangelization in a world desperately in need of good news.

The mission that Jesus entrusted to Peter – as ill-equipped as he was on his own – demanded that Peter embrace and model within his own life Jesus’ selfless love and total gift of himself.  What an incredible mission to place upon the shoulders of any human person!  Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus has always done.  He’s called followers like Peter, followers who, on their own, could never fully embrace or understand the mission entrusted to their care – but followers who were humble enough to accept the mercy and love of God in the “earthen vessels” of their lives – and followers who were wise enough to know that if called, the Lord himself would provide them with all they would need to do his work.

So if you want your ministry as a deacon to be fruitful, Michael, you must root yourself in Jesus’ life and love.  The disciplines of prayer, obedience and celibacy that you are called to embrace this day are meant to enable you to grow in the same spirit of service and mercy that so characterized Jesus’ ministry.  These disciplines are not obstacles, hurdles or distractions that are somehow detached from what it means to be an ordained minister of the Church.  They are not meant to set you up as being better or greater than others.  Rather, they are the vehicles that will carry you to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Michael, your service to the People of God as a deacon is a threefold ministry:  service to the Word of God – service at the Lord’s altar – and service to the poor.

As a deacon   …   you will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, convey the needs of the people of God in the General Intercessions and offer many other forms of instruction.  You are to proclaim Christ to the world.  …  Yet in receiving the Gospel of Christ, remember that it is the truth of the message of Jesus Christ that you proclaim, not yourself.

As a deacon   …   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 and funerals and other prayer services.  …  Be a good servant of the Church’s sacramental life and always point to Jesus as our life and our hope.

Finally, as a deacon   …   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 diaconal ministry.  As Pope Francis has reminded us, you are to go to the margins of our world where you will find the poor and the broken.  So be generous in your service, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.

And so, with great joy, Michael, the Diocese of Scranton calls you forth for the sacrament of Holy Orders.  While you have been given tremendous gifts and talents, we pray that you will always rely upon the grace of God to fill up whatever may be lacking in you to carry out fully the ministry entrusted to you this day.

I now ask that you 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.