Let Me Be Your Servant

Here’s the text of the homily delivered by His Most Reverend, Bishop Jesse Mercado, DD, during our diaconate ordination. He is Bishop of the Diocese of Parañaque.

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Moments from now, following the example of the Apostles, I shall pray over you brothers and lay my hands upon you, thereby consecrating you, setting you apart, humbly dedicating you for the diaconal ministry to which you have been called. In so doing, I shall invoke upon you the Holy Spirit that you may be strengthened by the gift of his sevenfold grace for the carrying out of the diaconal ministry. May the Holy Spirit fashion in the depths of your being the image of Christ who came to serve and not to be served, to give his life as a ransom for the many. The ordination to the Diaconate is a cause for celebration not only within the seminary community and the diocese, not only with the families and friends but a celebration that extends beyond the local church to the whole Church. It is a celebration, a joyful reminder of who we are and should be people of love and of service. By the laying on of hands, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the life of the ordinandus is radically changed, one is so deeply marked so as to be reminded as well as to serve as a reminder that one’s life is  not lived for one’s self alone but for God and neighbor, one’s heart does not beat for anyone or anything else but for God and his people.

Brothers, ang magpaliyab nawa sa inyung hangaring maglingkod sa Diyos at sa kapwa ay walang iba kundi pag-ibig. Ang tanging magbibigay nawa sa inyo ng ligaya ay ang maialay puno ng pagmamahal ang inyung buhay sa paglilingkod sa Diyos at sa kanyang sambayanan.

In what does the diaconal ministry consist?

Your service is three fold:
Service to the living Word of God
Service at the altar of the Lord;
Service to those in need.

Allow me a word about each of these.

As deacons, you shall proclaim the Gospel, occasionally preach homilies, enunciate the needs of the people in the General Intercessions, and offer many other forms of instruction. In a word, you are to be good servants of the Word and enthusiastic agents of the New Evangelization.

Never offer your own word, your own views, in place of the Word of Christ as it comes to us through the teaching of the Church. Allow the Word you proclaim to shape your inmost thoughts, and to shine forth in your every word and deed. But do not merely read the Word!

Pray and live the Word you proclaim and make it your goal to help those you serve to embrace the truth, beauty, and goodness of our Catholic faith. Pray, proclaim, preach, evangelize! Be joyful servants of the Living Word!

You shall also serve at the altar of the Lord, preparing the altar 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. As a servant of the liturgy, always point to Jesus whose saving deeds are the cause of our joy! And back up your ministry to the Church’s public prayer by an avid life of private prayer and virtuous living, so as to make your service at the altar genuine.

Finally you are to serve the poor and needy, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper. In the Gospel account of the Lord’s washing of the feet of His disciples, we read how Jesus rose from table, removed his outer garments, and knelt to wash the feet of Peter and the other Apostles: the Creator before the creature, the Eternal Son of God, who stripped himself of glory so as to clothe us with his.

Because you have heard and proclaimed the Word and shared deeply in the sacramental life of the Church, you are prepared also to empty yourself by reaching out in love to the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, and the troubled, Christ in all his “distressing disguises” as Blessed Mother Teresa often said.

One final word: there are three parts to your ministry but it is only one ministry that you assume. The ministry of the Word and ministry at the altar in no way conflicts with the ministry of service.
On the contrary, the Word proclaimed and the mysteries celebrated oblige us to love one another and to be good servants of the poor. You must show how the three essential elements of the Church’s life, Word, Liturgy, and Service, presuppose one another and are inseparable.

And remember also that a deacon’s ministry is neither fully diaconal nor unified if he is only a servant of the Word or the altar, but does not serve the poor directly. Your ministry must include some form of direct service to the poor.

Allow me to end with this Prayer for Deacons:

Lord Jesus, You came to serve, not to be served.
Form within us your generous Spirit.
Fill us with your love, that we may love the Father as You love Him.
Fill us with your compassion
that we may see our brothers and sisters as You see them.
Fill us with your courage,
that we may give our lives in service to the Church as You give Your life for her.
Fill us with that Spirit which will make us
Preachers of Your Word,
Ministers of Your Sacrifice,

Servants of Your Bride,

Friends of the poor

and the Voice of the forgotten.
Transform us through Your Holy Spirit
     so that we may transform the world into your Kingdom of Justice and faith.
Amen.

(Fr. Benedict D. O’Cannsealaigh, Archdiocese of Cincinnati)

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