HOMILY AND INSTRUCTION FOR THOSE TO BE ORDAINED DEACONS St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral May 11, 2013
There is an old saying with which we are all familiar: "many hands make light work." There is much truth in those words. Although some people believe another saying ---"if you want something done well, do it yourself" --- most of us realize that great ideas, great vision, great needs require many hands.
The Apostles recognized that fact in the early Church. In chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Twelve quickly became overwhelmed by their responsibility to preach the Gospel, so much so that other needs were being neglected within the community of faith as it grew, specially the needs that charity put before them. It is comforting to realize that even in the early Church, people "complained." Likewise, it is also good to learn that their legitimate complaints did not go unheeded. The Twelve summoned the community of faith to develop a response --- we might call it "a strategic plan" --- to meet the Church's needs. And the results of their prayerful deliberations have traveled through time and history to the present moment here in our Cathedral.
This morning we come together, the community of faith that is the Diocese of Trenton, to meet the needs of the Church through the ordination of 13 deacons, men of faith who have discerned God's call in the Church, who have studied and prepared themselves, who now offer themselves to me, as Bishop --- a successor to the Apostles --- for ordination to ministry in the Church in a permanent, enduring way. As Bishop, I thank each of you for your great generosity, a generosity you share with your wives, your families, your pastors and your parishes as you give yourselves to the Diocese as deacons. You join the ranks of many men like you who have assumed the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ, "I have come to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45)."
While your Bishop may have chosen that as his own episcopal motto, he is the first to admit that it is only with the help of priests, deacons, consecrated women and men and the community of the baptized faithful that those words can be fulfilled. Many hands! For the gift you are and for all the gifts you bring to share, I thank you and the entire Diocese thanks you.
Of course, the ministry that today becomes your own as members of the ordained clergy, is more than "to serve at table" as chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles. You are ordained and assigned for the Diocese of Trenton to the ministry of the word, to the ministry of the altar, to the ministry of charity working with me, as your Bishop, and with the pastors and priests of the parishes to which I have assigned you.
Yours is not a personal or individual ministry, although you bring unique personal gifts and identity to this sacrament. Yours is not a ministry confined to the boundaries of your parish assignment alone. No, yours is a ministry of the Church, in the Church, for the Church in our Diocese. And, in the words of Pope Francis, your call makes no sense "apart from the Church," one, holy, catholic and apostolic. "It is not possible to find Jesus," our Holy Father has said, "outside of the Church." To think otherwise is simply foolish.
And so, my dear sisters and brothers, let us listen to the instruction our Church gives in its ritual to those to be ordained deacons.