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Serve God's people as you would the Lord himself

Archbishop Wenski's homily at ordination of three transitional deacons

The new transitional deacons and some of the attending priests stand outside the Cathedral of St. Mary. From left, Father Alfredo Hernandez, rector of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach; Deacon Agustin Estrada, Deacon Sebastian Grisales, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Deacon Cesar Betancourt, Father Emanuele De Nigris, rector of Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Hialeah, and Father Matthew Gomez, archdiocesan director of Vocations.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

The new transitional deacons and some of the attending priests stand outside the Cathedral of St. Mary. From left, Father Alfredo Hernandez, rector of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach; Deacon Agustin Estrada, Deacon Sebastian Grisales, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Deacon Cesar Betancourt, Father Emanuele De Nigris, rector of Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Hialeah, and Father Matthew Gomez, archdiocesan director of Vocations.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the ordination of three new deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami. They are “transitional deacons” because it is their last step before their ordination to priesthood. The ceremony took place April 11, 2021 at St. Mary Cathedral and can be viewed here. A slideshow can be viewed here.

“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue” (Diary, No. 163). This is an excerpt from St. Faustina’s “Prayer to be Merciful.” Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day that reminds us to pray for God’s compassion and forgiveness and to afford the same to one another.

It is a perfect day, and at three o’clock — the hour of mercy — it is a perfect hour for us to call these three men to the order of deacon. The readings for today’s Mass are especially appropriate: in Acts we see the early Christians model both mercy and compassion; and both the second reading and Gospel tells us of the Holy Spirit’s power in building up the Church of Christ which is also manifested in these men’s positive response to a vocation of life-long service in and for the Church.

I welcome all of you who have come to support these three young men today. Normally these men would be ordained deacons with their classmates from St. Vincent de Paul Seminary. But these are not normal times: because of COVID and the need for social distancing — and because of the size of this year’s deacon class — many of you who are here today would not have been invited to participate had all the deacon candidates been ordained together. So, these three men are being ordained today here at St. Mary’s Cathedral, so that you all could be here to support them with your prayers — and your love.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily while celebrating the transitional deacons ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, April 11, 2021.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily while celebrating the transitional deacons ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, April 11, 2021.

These men are ordained as “transitional” deacons as opposed to the married men who are ordained to the permanent deaconate: They hope — with the help of God’s grace — to be called to the presbyterate and to being ordained priests — hopefully next year.

Pope St. John Paul II spoke about the deaconate as “sacramentalizing” service in the Church. The Old Baltimore Catechism — which is still valid — said that sacraments are “outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace.” So, deacons — both permanent and transitional — are to be visible and effective signs of service or charity.

As deacons who will “transition” to priesthood, your ministry of service will be exercised by you in the celibate state which you freely embrace today so that you may cling to Christ more easily with an undivided heart. Celibacy is both a sign of pastoral charity and an inspiration to it as well as a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world.

Also, today you will resolve to be men of prayer especially in celebrating faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours, praying with Christ and in his name for the People of God and for the whole world.

As deacons you are ministers of Jesus Christ, who came as one who served and stooped to wash the feet of his disciples. So, follow his example: Seek to do the Lord’s will in all things — do it from the heart and not begrudgingly; as a helper of the bishop whom you owe respect and obedience, serve God’s people as you would the Lord himself — with love and joy.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters his apostles — once again in the Upper Room — and this time Thomas is there. They must have all felt guilty for having run away, and perhaps their first reaction at seeing the Risen Lord was not joy but shame for having abandoned him. But Jesus heals their woundedness by showing them his wounds and gives them his Easter gift of Shalom: Peace be with you, he tells them.

We should learn from the fearful and doubting apostles and from Jesus, who not only forgave them but also empowered them with the Holy Spirit, sending them forth — as the Father sent him. God doesn’t call the qualified, but he does qualify the called. Like the Apostle Thomas, let us accept mercy and let us show mercy, especially to those who are most vulnerable.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa, used to say: If we pray, we will believe, if we believe, we will love, and if we love, we will serve. This is good advice for all of us; but especially today for these three men.

Keep on your lips and in your hearts that simple prayer of St. Faustina Kowalska: Jezu, ufam Tobie. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesús, en ti confío.

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