Homily for the Solemn Pontifical Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate of Mr Jerome Emmanuel and Mr Rodrigo Rupac at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 21 October 2017
“Life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get.” That saying made famous by the film Forrest Gump suggests life is a mysterious journey and we must be ready for surprises. We may not be able to dictate how our lives unfold. But when we are open to be formed by the journey, even those parts that remain unknown to us, we can facilitate our own transformation.
Jerome and Rudy, your lives have been a journey with many twists and turns. In fact, like The Beatles song (Long and Winding Road), the road has been long and winding, except that you might not have predicted that it would lead you here today. Rudy, you come from a large family of eight brothers and sisters. With your wife, Agnes, you came to Australia seeking a better life and most of all a better future for your five children. You have worked hard and provided well for your family. Your children and grandchildren are here as a proof of your unflinching commitment and dedication. It is a day of joy for them too, as they witness this milestone in your life. In diaconal ministry, you will continue to live your unflinching commitment and dedication, even beyond the confines of your family to the wider community of faith.
Jerome Emmanuel, you come from a troubled region of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. At the height of the civil war, I was in Colombo and I could see fighter jets tearing the sky on their way to bomb that region. But as often the case, faith tested and tried in the crucible of suffering can produce great fruits. You attribute your divine calling to the solid Catholic environment, which was imbued with the deep faith. Your wife Freeda and sons Jonathan and Christen are here to support you on your journey of diaconal ministry, as are your friends and parishioners of Kellyville, my old stomping ground.
God sure works in mysterious ways bringing two of you from different backgrounds into service as deacons in the church of Parramatta. Your openness to the stirrings of the heart and the promptings of the Spirit has led you on a journey of great promise and blessing. The God who formed you in your mother’s womb continues to guide you, at times off the beaten track and into a great unknown. And yet, if you are sensitive to his nudging and willing to go into the deep, he will make you into his instruments.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.” Jerome and Rudy, these words of the prophet Jeremiah provide you with the basis for your diaconal ordination today. It is God who called you and chose you for him.
Today you make a solemn and public response to that divine love. Your ordination is none other than to make God the centre of your life. It is to manifest the person, life and ministry of Christ through your ministry of service. St Paul in the second reading reminds us as follows: “Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it…So that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”
In the Gospel, Jesus uses the Parable of the Faithful Servant to remind his disciples of the need to be alert. It is a kind of spiritual sensitivity and vigilance that allows us to discern God’s presence and action in the world and to make a faithful response to it. Jesus, therefore, calls us to the whole new way of living the Gospel which will correspond with the signs of the times and the needs of the people of our time.
Rudy and Jerome,
You are ordained to diaconal ministry today in the context of changing times and a corresponding heart and mind. It is like new wine in new wineskins. The old wineskins of the clericalist model typified by attitude of dominance, superiority and individualism are no longer able to contain this new and better wine that people are yearning to drink.
If Christian ministry has a better future, it has to find expression in better mutual support, collaboration and partnership.
Perhaps that is what Jesus meant by sending his disciples out in pairs. Your ordination today brings joy, hope and even renewal to us. Even though we do not know when the better future for the church might be, we are comforted and strengthened by your companionship. The journey might be uncertain but it will be less daunting when walked together knowing that Christ’s love for us is never ending.
We pray that the new wine of God’s unconditional love, boundless mercy, radical inclusivity and equality may be contained in the new wineskins of your humble and yet burning hearts. May you in turn pour it in the hearts of God’s people, satisfying and nourishing them, like the superior and flowing wine at the wedding of Cana.
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