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'Before you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk'

Archbishop Wenski's homily at ordination of 10 new permanent deacons for South Florida

Homily preached by Archbishop Thomas Wenski Dec. 17 at St. Mary Cathedral, during the ordination ceremony for 1o new permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami.

First of all, I want to welcome all of you to this ordination ceremony – especially I welcome the wives and families of these acolytes who shortly will be ordained deacons of the Church.  

Estamos muy agradecidos a estas esposas y familias – si no fuera por su permiso y su apoyo estos hombres no hubieran podido presentarse esta mañana para ser ordenados diáconos.   These men, your husbands and fathers, of course, count on your continued support and prayers as they assume the responsibilities of deacons.

We are of course in the Advent Season – just one week away from Christmas Day which commemorates the date of our dear Savior’s birth as a man.  The Gospel reading today offers a genealogy of Jesus Christ.  In a very concrete yet poetic way, this presentation of Jesus’ “family tree” reminds us that our Christian faith is not about an idea, an ideology, or a philosophy;, our Christian faith is not merely a moral code we bind ourselves to; our Christian faith is about an event that occurs in time and space, our Christian faith is about an encounter, an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.

This event affects our entire lives – and fully transforms them. For this encounter with Jesus Christ demands from us a response – it is a response given in faith at baptism and lived out in friendship with Jesus Christ. It has brought these men here today to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders in the order of deacons through the "laying on of hands" – in the words of the Second Vatican Council – not for the priesthood, but for the ministry.  

In the words of Blessed John Paul II, the deacon “sacramentalizes” service in the Church. Sacraments are, in the old but still valid language of the Baltimore Catechism, “outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace”.  And so, deacons must be visible and effective signs of Christ who came “not to be served but to serve”. Your ministry should thus “model” service for the entire community - a service that has as its aim the growth of grace among all the people of God.  

As ordained deacons, you are to inspire, to promote and to help coordinate the service that the whole Church must undertake in imitation of Christ. Christian discipleship should be one “service industry” where there is no unemployment – for there is enough work for everybody.  To be called by God to discipleship and thus to the service of others is not a “burden” but a “gift” – and therefore a cause for great joy.

Estos hombres serán diáconos de la Iglesia de Dios. Como tales, son ordenados para ser símbolo e instrumento de Cristo, quien vino “no para ser servido sino para servir". Como compañeros de trabajo del obispo y de los presbíteros, los diáconos deben ser la expresión viva y activa de la caridad de la Iglesia – a los diáconos se les confía, de una manera especial, el ministerio de la caridad que se encuentra en el origen de la institución del diaconado. Entre los pobres y necesitados, el diácono ha de hablar sobre Cristo y ofrecerles la variada ayuda de la Iglesia; y en la Iglesia, el diácono ha de hablar sobre los pobres y así inspirar y movilizar la repuesta de la comunidad cristiana.  Si el diacono está llamado al servicio de la mesa eucarística es porque primero fue llamado al servicio de la mesa de los pobres.

Your diakonia or service is threefold: service of the Word, service of the Eucharist, and service of the poor. But it is because the deacon serves at the table of the poor that he has his distinctive liturgical roles at the table of the Lord. Yes, deacons assist at the altar; but they are called primarily to that other “service of the table” referred to in the Acts of the Apostles: the care of the orphans and widows. As co-workers with the bishop and priests, you must 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 origin of the institution of the deacon. Thus, you have a special responsibility to identify to the Church those who are in need and particularly those who are without the power of voice at the margins of our society.

Among such people, the deacon is to speak about Christ and to offer them the Church’s varied assistance. In the Church, the deacon is to speak about the needy, to articulate their needs and to inspire and mobilize the Catholic community’s response. Imitate that early deacon of Rome, St. Lawrence, who was martyred in the year 258.  When ordered by the pagan emperor to hand over the treasures of the Church, he gathered together the poor and sick and said: ‘Here is the treasure of the Church”.

Through the ministry of her deacons, the Church can make herself present to the world of need and pain that too often remains invisible to us within our normal parish life. You must continually remind us that there, among the needy and the marginalized, lies the true treasure of the Church.

La Iglesia siempre ha de vivir en el mundo – sin ser del mundo. Como Iglesia, tenemos un solo servicio que prestarle al mundo – es la diakonia de la verdad, el servicio de la verdad.  Por medio de su servicio fiel al Evangelio en su integridad – sin acomodaciones, dudas o temores - los diáconos deben ayudar al mundo a descubrir ese Verdad que tiene un rostro humano, la Verdad que es una persona: Jesucristo.

Yes, you are heralds of the Gospel. As deacons you have the duty of proclaiming the Gospel and helping the priests explain the Word of God. Today, I will entrust you with the Book of the Gospel with these words: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become." Remember it is his Gospel, not yours; it is the Word of God, not our own!  As heralds, you must always speak in his name and not in your own.

You will preach, you will teach, you will exhort in a variety of contexts – but even as you proclaim the Word, you must be first witnesses to its empowerment in your own lives. In other words, before you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi drives home this point when he reminds us that today people don’t listen any more to teachers (or preachers, for that matter) because they are authorities. If they are listened to, it will be only in measure that they are first witnesses – and you witness through your service – a service which I have reminded you that should take you beyond the safe walls of the parish church.

The Church is to live always in the world, but not to be of the world. Living in the world, the Church has a unique service to render to the world – it is the diakonia of the truth, the service of the truth. As ministers of the Church, you must understand that it is the truth that judges events – not vice versa, as so often happens today in our current culture. By your faithful service to the Gospel in its integrity – without compromise, without accommodation, hesitation or fear – you must help the world to discover that Truth that has a human face, the Truth that is a person: Jesus Christ.

As deacons, you are the first co-workers of the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist. As co-workers of the pPriest, you also are servers of the Mysterium Fidei, the great Mystery of Faith.

All Christ’s faithful can come to a fuller and deeper understanding of and participation in these “mysteries” if your service at the altar helps to underscore the “sacredness” of this sacramental encounter with the living Christ. At the altar, your language, your demeanor must in no way be profane or given to an informal familiarity – for in this Holy Sacrifice we meet our Lord and Redeemer.

Como diáconos, estos hombres nacen del altar – o sea, desde adentro del corazón del Sacrificio Eucarístico. Como vemos en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, el diaconado nace en oración. Y la oración – y solamente la oración – los sostendrá y los mantendrá fieles a esa triple diakonia de la Palabra, la Eucaristía y la Caridad.

As this beautiful ordination ceremony so richly makes clear, as deacons, you are born from the altar – from within the heart of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  You are born in prayer. And prayer – and only prayer - will sustain you and keep you faithful to your triple diakonia of Word, Eucharist and Charity. 

In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict reminds us that, since God is love, in order to give love we must receive love. In that encyclical he mentions Blessed Mother Teresa three times to stress that the roots of effective Christian service and charity are found in prayer.

For this reason, I recommend to you the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours is entrusted in a particular way to the ordained ministers of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours belongs to you – no less than it belongs to the bishops and priests who are bound to it for their daily prayer.  

Pope John Paul II, in urging that our parishes in the new millennium become schools of prayer, also highly recommended that the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours be promoted among all the faithful. As deacons you can be instrumental in better acquainting the laity to the Liturgy of the Hours. And your own efforts to pray daily the Liturgy of the Hours can help you grow in vigor, be strengthened in faithfulness and increase your ability to serve. And, since it is a prayer offered in the Spirit to the Father in the name of Christ for the Church and for the whole world, it is itself another form of diakonia.

Follow the example of the Lord himself:  just as he himself has done, you also should do.  Do God’s will from the heart: Serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord himself.

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