‘Deacons, Carry Out Your Ministry in Joy’
Serve with generosity of heart and love of Christ, Cardinal Donald Wuerl told ordinandi Oct. 2 in Rome.
ROME -- This week, Cardinal Donald Wuerl ordained 43 seminarians from the Pontifical North American College in Rome as deacons, reminding them to always be open to God and to live their new ministry with joy.
“Dear deacons, never cease to be open to the call. Each day, renew your resolve to say, 'Yes, Lord. Here I am, Lord; send me,'” the cardinal told the new deacons during their Oct. 2 ordination Mass.
“Your commitment to service will take the form of the many tasks you will be asked to do,” he explained. “May you always find joy in the attitude, 'Lord, whatever it takes, that is what I offer you and your Church.'”
Cardinal Wuerl, who serves as archbishop of Washington, opened his homily by referencing the significance of receiving the sacrament of holy orders in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he also was ordained a deacon, priest and bishop.
The words “Ibi Petrus,” or “Here is Peter,” that were written on the headstone marking where the apostle’s remains are buried do not just refer to one man, but to “the reality that the Office of Peter and the ministry of his successors … are still alive and thriving.”
It is on the “rock” of Peter and “to the service of the people of God” that you will be ordained, the cardinal told the ordinandi present.
Reflecting on the qualities needed in order to be a good deacon, Cardinal Wuerl turned to the example of Stephen, who “possessed a generosity of heart and a love of Christ and his Church.”
“These traits made it possible for each to work gladly and willingly with the apostles,” he said, noting that when the priest or deacon lays prostrate during the right of ordination, it is a sign of “the reality that you are laying down your lives for a friend, the greatest friend, Jesus Christ.”
“It is also here where the bones of Peter remind us that our first pope truly laid down his life for the Lord. To serve means to give whatever it takes to serve Christ.”
Cardinal Wuerl continued, saying that in one’s ordination, “You are joined to Christ now as servant: the servant who nurtures, heals and restores; the servant who feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, visits the sick and imprisoned.”
He then went on the explain how their ordination as deacons is a concrete call to participate in the New Evangelization, which requires what Pope Francis often coins as a “response to Jesus as missionary discipleship. Each of us is called to share the Good News.”
Bringing to mind a homily given by Benedict XVI, the cardinal observed that each of us is called to “‘re-propose’ all over again" the Gospel, in order to gain "a hearing from those who perhaps feel they have already experienced the Gospel and it has no impact in their lives.”
“The continuation of the mission of Christ, which began with the Great Commissioning following his death and resurrection, is what we are engaged in today,” he said.
Noting how the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family will begin this weekend, Cardinal Wuerl explained, “These deliberations and those continuing in the next synod, [in] 2015, cannot help but be a part of the context of your ministry.”
He referred to how Pope Francis is slated to beatify Paul VI, who instigated the synods following the close of the Second Vatican Council, on Oct. 19.
“In Evangelii Nuntiandi, (Pope Paul VI) offers this assessment of our own effectiveness: ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’”
“Dear deacons, carry out your ministry in joy,” he said. “A sign of the indwelling Spirit is found in what are known as the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” and “among these we find love, joy and peace, together with patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness and self-control.”
The cardinal concluded his homily by quoting the day's Gospel, in which Jesus tells his apostles: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. … It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
He then spoke of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” saying that it serves as a reminder of “the joy of the Gospel that should fill the hearts and minds of all who encounter Jesus.”
“Those in holy orders should manifest joy, since our proclamation is that Christ is risen and the kingdom of God is at hand.”
“May the Holy Spirit who consecrates all the baptized, and who has further blessed you who are to be ordained deacons, continue to inspire you to service,” he prayed.
And may he “enrich your liturgical ministry, deepen your life of faith and help you as you, through your ministry, do whatever it takes to build up the whole body of Christ.”