Homily for the Mass for the formal acceptance to candidacy to the permanent diaconate of Charles Abela, Alan Skofic, Jerome D’Rozario, David Dowling and Batsirai Maringehosi at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith Year C 2022.
Readings: Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 144(145):10-13a, 21; John 14:27-31
Dear brothers and sisters,
They say a crisis can lead to an opportunity. As people of God on a journey, we are open to being led beyond our limited horizons. The pandemic has been a source of disruption on many levels, not the least of which is the way we live our Christian faith. While we yearned for a community gathered in worship, fellowship and mission, we also learned to meet God and convey his presence in new ways. Indeed, this lesson can never be underestimated. We must learn to encounter the living Christ beyond fixed walls and boundaries. More importantly, we must learn to be witnesses to him in our acts of solidarity, hospitality and service to the least of his brothers and sisters.
This is what the early Church teaches us. The crisis of persecution and expulsion from their Jewish roots did not stop the followers of the Way from living the faith and sharing that faith.
The Acts of the Apostles presents us with a picture of the early Christian community, which is small in numbers, poor in resources and yet incredibly generous, courageous, outward-looking and even boundary-breaking. Earlier episodes focus on their internal cohesion in the face of external pressure and persecution. They embraced radical solidarity. They all sold their possessions and shared the proceeds in common.
In today’s account, we are told of a watershed moment. They were no longer a Jewish sect. They had done something quite momentous. Persecuted and driven out of the synagogues, Paul and Barnabas were the first missionaries who went beyond the geographical and racial confines of their known world. They shared the Good News with the Gentiles and made them equal members within their group.
The Gospel gives us a moving account of Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples. After Judas had gone to set in motion the drama of betrayal, arrest and crucifixion, Jesus spoke words of comfort and reassurance to them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be too”.
This is not only a promise of an after-life bliss in heaven. Rather, it is an invitation to follow Jesus in his ultimate act of total mutual indwelling with God. Throughout his life, he had shown what God was like through his attitudes and actions, particularly his messianic works. These works are healing, forgiving, restoring and making whole. It is to give life in its fullness to all. In essence, the works of Jesus is encapsulated by his death on the cross. Hence, “the place where I am going” is not simply a reference to paradise. It is an invitation to mutual indwelling, which is accomplished fully by one’s embrace of the cross.
Brothers and sisters,
Today, we induct these brothers into the formal journey to ordination. Candidacy is a commitment to self-sacrifice, humble service and servant leadership. It is to follow the example of Christ who came not to be served but to serve. In post-Royal Commission Australia, the mystique and social stature of the ordained have all but disappeared. Pope Francis has appealed to the shepherds to wear the smell of the sheep and to abandon the culture of comfort, security and self-protection in order to go out to the periphery.
Compelled by the love of Christ and strengthened by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, you have arrived at the moment when you are to express openly your desire to be bound in Holy Orders for the service of God and mankind. This desire we shall receive with joy. From this day on, you must cultivate more fully your vocation using especially those means that can be offered to you as help and support by the ecclesial community entrusted with this task.
Let us pray for Charles Abela, Alan Skofic, Jerome D’Rozario, David Dowling, Batsirai Maringehosi and their respective spouses. I am convinced that if Christian ministry has a better future, it has to find expression in better mutual support, collaboration and partnership. The spouses are, therefore, integral to your formation and eventually your diaconal vocation. We celibate clergy have a lot to learn from you as you seek to embody the ideal of Christian service, not only in how you minister but also in how you nurture your relationships.
We commend you, your spouses and families to the prayers of the community. May we learn the art of living in God’s presence: our identity grounded, our commitment deepened and our mission nurtured for greater service of the kingdom.
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