I. What It Means To Renew Promises
A. This is a Mass with many homilies, three to be exact, so I’ll be brief. In just a moment you, who represent the permanent deacons of the Archdiocese, will renew the promises that you made on the day of your ordination.
B. At one level, you are resolving afresh, with the help of God’s grace, to fulfill your diaconal responsibilities as well as possible – proclaiming and preaching God’s word, assisting at the altar, presiding at prayer, and serving the needs of the poor. Surely we all need to strive attain an ever greater level of ministerial competence. We owe this to the Lord who called us, to the Church who ordained us, and to the people whom we are privileged to serve.
C. At a deeper level, you are resolving afresh, with the help of God’s grace, not only to fulfill your diaconal responsibilities competently, but indeed to fulfill them in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in a spirit of humble service, for only such humble service truly builds the communion of the Church. So it is that you resolve to deepen your spirit of prayer, your study of Scripture, your love of the poor according to the example of Christ. So it is that I will address the Lord on your behalf as those who have been called not to be served but to serve others, after the mind and heart of Christ.
D. The two levels come together in the person whose feast occurs today, namely, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Carmelite nun we call “the Little Flower”. She lived the very ordinary life of a cloistered religious, doing small things with extraordinary love, thus attaining the heights of holiness. “You ask a method of attaining perfection,” she once said, “I know of love, only love – love can do all things.” No wonder she is the patron of missions and heavenly friend of the ordained. She teaches you and me the little way that leads to holiness not the grandiose way which, often as not, leads nowhere, if not to disaster.
II. All Year Long
A. It is relatively easy to renew these promises on a day like today, when the diaconal community has gathered in the warmth of friendship in such a beautiful and gracious setting as St. Louis Parish. Yet, your experience teaches that it is not so easy to renew ordination promises when you are torn between diaconal and family responsibilities, when the demands of your day-job increase, or when difficulties and disputes arise in the communities you serve. That is when the proverbial rubber meets the road.
B. So today, you renew your promises at two levels but you also pledge to renew them not merely once a year but every day of your lives as part of your daily regimen of prayer. If you daily renew your promises, you can count on the Lord to help you, your wives and families in deeply personal ways. You can also count on the Lord to make your ministry fruitful in the fulfillment of the Church’s fundamental mission to spread the Gospel. May God bless you and keep you in his love!