A. We have gathered in joy for the diaconal ordination of Kevin Ewing and Scott Rose: Kevin, who is being ordained transitionally, in anticipation of priestly ordination, and Scott who is being ordained permanently as a deacon of the Church. Both are the cause of our joy this ordination morning, coming as it does in the midst of the Year of Mercy. It is a year in which our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis has mobilized the Church to proclaim mercy and to perform the works of mercy, most especially the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These include giving instruction in the faith, comforting those who mourn, feeding the sick, sheltering the homeless, visiting those in prison.
B. In the diaconate, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are sacramentalized, for the diaconate is that rank in the Sacrament of Holy Orders most closely identified with charity and with its traveling companion, justice. In you, Kevin and Scott, the Holy Spirit will bring about a wondrous transformation such that you will be sacramentally identified with the Christ who came to proclaim good news to the poor, who healed the sick and associated with the lowly, who laid down his life in love and compassion for suffering humanity. Such is the light which the Year of Mercy sheds on that which we do this morning.
II. Isaiah 61:1-3a
A. Such also is the light which our Scripture readings shed upon this moment of grace, beginning with the beautiful proclamation of Isaiah which Jesus made his own: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me!” Yes, Kevin and Scott, the Spirit of the Lord is indeed upon you! It is the Holy Spirit who alone can invade the depths of your hearts there to fashion and re-fashion in the image of Christ. Through the prayer of the Church and the laying on of hands the Holy Spirit will fashion in your hearts the image of Christ the Deacon, Christ the Servant, Christ the lover of souls. To you will be imparted a sacramental character, a new and permanent spiritual identification with Lord. This will be a fountain of abundant graces that will enable you to be for us what Jesus was for the people in the Nazareth synagogue so long ago: not only a messenger of God’s mercy but indeed the “face” of God’s mercy.
B. As you proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, instruct young and old alike, and bring the Gospel to those who have lapsed in their faith or who have maybe never really ever heard the Gospel – as you do all this you and more, you will bring glad tidings to the poor. You will bring the wonderful news of God’s compassionate love to the spiritually poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. You will bring healing to the brokenhearted – marriages that are struggling, people who are ignored and neglected, those consumed with anger, those who crave the look of love. You will bring liberty to captives, to those held bound by habits of sin and addiction, to those held captive by a self-centered way of life. And release to prisoners, that is to say, true spiritual freedom to those who are incarcerated and to those held in figurative prisons of sin. May your witness to Christ be joy for those who mourn and may it bring to life the faith of those who are listless.
C. Your proclamation of the Gospel is directly linked to your service of those in need. With us today, as our first reader, is Williams Guevara. Williams fled to the United States from El Salvador – he came alone and undocumented to our country to escape abuse. Now documented, he was helped by Catholic Charities and devotes his time to helping undocumented young children here in Baltimore. Every deacon is asked to undertake a ministry for the poor and marginalized and in this way to reflect the Lord’s love and mercy in their preaching and in leading the people in prayers of intercession during Holy Mass. Kevin and Scott, you will be inspired, as I am, by persons such as Williams, whose spirit of love and service will spur you on to greater generosity of spirit. Similarly, you will be called to foster in the parish communities where you minister an ever greater spirit of service for the poor and needy, to help instill in these communities a charity that evangelizes.
III. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7
A. Saint Paul brings us to the very heart of your ministry of mercy when he speaks of “the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” The glory of Christ is his humanity, indeed our humanity that shines with that self-giving love which, he the Son of God, shared with His Father from all eternity in unity of the Holy Spirit. This is the glory of Trinitarian love by which we, as human persons, become “fully alive”. This is the glory which we share with our people in the Church’s sacraments, visible signs of Christ’s self-giving love which we always experience as mercy. Whether you are ministering at the altar during the celebration of the Eucharist, baptizing an infant, presiding at a wedding or a funeral, you are ministers of “the glory of God shining on the face of Christ” – of that beautifully generous and infinite love which our human spirit craves so that we might be healed of sin and lifted up to enjoy God’s friendship. This is the love capable of re-fashioning relationships with other people and with the world.
B. In your sacramental and liturgical roles, be not lords, but servants who show by your demeanor that you are that service of a reality much larger, much more wonderful than yourselves on even your best day, a mystery that has “its surpassing power from God and not from us.” For in our role as stewards of Christ’s mysteries, we are meant to be a channel, a point of access to God’s mercy. And we grow in awareness and appreciation of this sacred role to the degree that we ourselves are recipients of God’s mercy, especially through the regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through private prayer and Eucharistic adoration, and the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. We are indeed “earthen vessels”, as St. Paul says, and as we humbly reflect the need of our own “earthiness” for God’s mercy so we become more apt as witnesses and ministers of that mercy.
IV. John 15:9-17
A. Finally, we approach the Gospel as servants and slaves of Christ, as Paul says, only to hear Jesus tell us that we are indeed his friends. We are his friends because Jesus has loved us first and poured out his life and grace upon us with great abundance. As a result, we are friends because we are fellow servants with the One who came not to be served but to serve. We are friends of Jesus because we have taken to heart his proclamation of salvation for the lowly and because have made ourselves lowly.
B. None of this did we choose for ourselves. Scott and Kevin, you have been chosen and for that reason your family, your friends, indeed the whole Church rejoices. May the Lord bless you in your ministry! May it produce abundant fruit in the life of the Church, so that all may share the joy of the Gospel and rejoice in the Lord’s never-ending mercies! May God bless us and keep us always in his love!