St. Paul said, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of your ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Nine years ago on May 21st, I was ordained a deacon. Last week, I was literally overwhelmed by the love and support I received from you through all the Facebook comments, cards, and emails. In God’s own way, the timing for me to receive so many “congratulations” and “thank yous” was incredible. Because being cooped up for almost 3 months due to this pandemic, I’ve had plenty of time to think about why God called me to be a deacon in the first place, and wonder if my ministry is really “a letter from Christ.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the deacon is “configured to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all” (CCC 1570). It goes on to say that the deacon assists the bishop and priests in celebrating the divine mysteries (our sacraments and liturgies), proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, presiding over marriages and funerals, and being dedicated to the ministries of charity and service [diakonia] (CCC 1570).
Now, the “assisting” part of the deacon’s ministry is easy for me to see if I’m fulfilling those responsibilities. The hard part is seeing if what I’m doing is “dedicated to the ministries of charity and service.” On top of that, during my diaconate formation, we were constantly reminded of the awesome responsibility that accompanies the humbling privilege of receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We were told that if we think we are worthy to wear the deacon’s stole and submit to a life of serving God and His people, then we are not. If we think we are worthy, we are not. Nine years later, I still don’t think I’m worthy. But, your thoughts and prayers, your congratulations and well wishes, your Facebook “likes”, your words of encouragement and inspiration all answered my prayers to reassure me that I am doing what God wants me to do.
Through my deacon ministry, I have learned that to be a good minister I need to meet people where they live and work. I’ve learned that ministry is more than committee meetings, outreach programs, newsletters, and liturgies. Ministry is going out and walking with people in their suffering, step by step, to let them know God cares. It’s helping people regain their human dignity and understand that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. I have learned that everyone is entitled to the love of Jesus – from an unborn baby to people locked away for crimes against humanity, confined to a hospital bed, struggling with darkness, unable to get out of a senior home, or wondering if God forgot about them. Ministry is helping people experience the love of Christ so they can grow closer to God. But, I can’t do any of that without your help. In fact, my ministry and YOUR ministry go hand in hand. We are two sides of the same coin.
Today, we face the same evil in the world as those 1st Century Christians. We live in a society filled with injustice and turmoil. A culture where the erosion of human dignity and disregard for life threaten to snuff out the fires lit by the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost almost 2000 years ago. But, like them, we cannot let that happen! All of us must work to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ so everyone can experience the compassion of God written on their hearts. Together, we must work side by side and bring Christ’s presence into the lives of others.
Thank you for making my 9th anniversary a very special one. Together, let’s GO AND ANNOUNCE THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD!