Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Ordination to the Diaconate – 27 May 2017
Acts 6:1-7b; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 10:35-45
As we join in prayer and continue to revel in 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 Ryan Glenn, our brother, 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 Ryan, for all of us, and particularly for those of you who have been entrusted with the care and formation of our brother throughout the many years of his journey of life that brings him to this faith-filled moment.
To Ryan’s entire family and especially his parents, Jim and Maria, thank you for your commitment, your example, your support and the gift of your son to the Church.
To the parishes and schools that Ryan attended over the years, Saint Jude’s Parish in Mountaintop and particularly Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore represented today by Father Scott Detisch, 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 for Ryan, have helped to prepare him for ministry in the Church, please know how grateful we all are for your care and dedication.
And finally, to Father Shantillo, Father Mosley and the entire parish community of Saint Matthew in East Stroudsburg, thank you for creating an environment of mutual love and support in and through which Ryan’s gifts for ministry have been able to grow and flourish. He presents himself to us today as a candidate for Holy Orders due in no small part to your faith and the life of this great parish. Indeed, your relationship with Ryan during this past year gives a depth of meaning to these words that I will speak to him in just a few moments, “Dear Son, 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, and especially the faithful of Saint Matthew’s Parish, will enable Ryan to make that declaration with great resolve and determination, for it will be rooted in his experience of the risen Jesus poured forth in your lives. … Thank you so very much!
Ryan, it’s quite obvious that a great deal of time and effort has been expended by you and so many others who have helped you to discern the will of God and his call in your life. Today you respond to God’s call to be a co-worker with your fellow deacons, with the priests of this local Church and with me, your bishop. Consider carefully that to which you’ve responded.
Jesus articulates the nature of your calling very clearly in the gospel that you chose for today’s ordination Mass. Listen again to what he says: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus’ admonition to his disciples – to each of us – and especially to you, Ryan – is almost a pleading. If you really understand me and what I am about, if you want to be my disciple, if you truly seek to be worthy of my name, then you must see the world and respond to its challenges in a particular way. The world may try to justify vengeance rather than forgiveness, to glorify self-preservation over selflessness, to preserve the system rather than to work for compassion and justice – but it cannot be that way with you!
This admonition is perhaps the greatest challenge of the Gospel, calling us not to accept “business as usual,” not to accept injustice and estrangement as “the way things are,” not to justify flexible morals and ethics with the mantra “everybody does it.” In short, to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others and to intentionally seek the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves.
We are all so very grateful today for your willingness to embrace Jesus’ call to service, Ryan. Yet, in this call, the Lord clearly acknowledges the constant struggle that you will face in ministry: the constant struggle between living the life of God – and following your own way.
It’s interesting to note that in Saint Matthew’s version of today’s gospel, the mother of the disciples James and John approached Jesus and asked for a favor for her sons. Mark’s version of the same gospel that was just proclaimed a few moments ago is a bit more unsettling. Mark doesn’t affix blame for the outrageous request on the mother of the two disciples. He reveals that the disciples themselves ask Jesus for the favor.
Ryan, the context for your response to the Lord’s call is ever so human. As committed as they were to Jesus’ mission, the disciples 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 – and neither are you. We are called to serve the People of God but sometimes we get in the way.
So if you want your ministry as a deacon to be fruitful, Ryan, you must root yourself in Jesus’ life and love. The great Philippians hymn which you chose for our second scripture reading describes the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ. Very significantly, however, in words that we did not hear this morning, Saint Paul prefaces the ancient hymn with this challenge that centers upon love: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” Christ’s self-emptying is the foundation for that love. … His self-emptying must be the pattern for your life as well.
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. Here, there is little room for pride, selfishness and arrogance. Rather, they are the vehicles that will carry you to a deeper union with Jesus.
Ultimately, as Pope Francis has often reminded the bishops, priests and deacons of our Church, you must cultivate in your heart “the virtues of courage, humility and generosity” and surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church, in order to serve as an authentic and effective minister for the sake of those entrusted to your pastoral care.
Ryan, your service to the People of God as a deacon is a threefold ministry: service to the Word of God – service at the altar of the Lord – and service to the poor. Let me share a few words about each of these ways in which you are called to serve.
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 be an agent of the New Evangelization and proclaim Christ to the world. … Yet in receiving the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you become, remember that it is his Gospel that you preach, not yours. 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 – not yourself – 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 the institution of the deacon. As Pope Francis has reminded us often, you are to go to the margins of our world and our lives where you will find the poor and the broken. Ryan, I know you’ve done this so very well here at St. Matthew’s Parish. Continue to serve generously, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.
And so, with great joy, Ryan, the Diocese of Scranton calls you forth for the sacrament of Holy Orders. Although you indeed possess 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 of the Diaconate that will be 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.