I got prayed over by the archbishop yesterday, they gave me some new vestments, and now I’m a deacon. The path to being ordained as a deacon is the path of discipleship. It’s hearing a voice – a call – from God and trying to respond.
All of us Christians have heard the call to become his disciples – to grow in holiness. We know what he wants: he wants us to be holy. We just sometimes don’t know what he wants us to do as we are being holy.
That’s where we need the help of others. In responding to my call to the diaconate, I could not have done it alone. The good Christian in our family is my wife. She has been my partner and guide in every aspect of my life as her husband. I am a proud member of the Guild of St. Joseph: these are men you otherwise would never have heard of — except for the women they are married to.
Brad before Helen was selfish mess. Brad after 27 years of growth with Helen can say “Yes” to God’s call.
And God is calling me. He is calling all of us.
- To be a light in the darkness, as the Gospel tells us today.
- To be the salt that seasons this drab world.
- To conduct our affairs with justice, as the Psalm sings today.
- To share our bread, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked, as Isaiah preached today.
In a world that wakes up every morning thinking about how to get more, we are called to the sacrificial love of Christ on the Cross.
The deacon is ordained to service. I was ordained to serve you so you can go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ by how you live your lives. This church building is not a retirement home; it’s a field hospital. You come to Mass to be renewed in the fellowship of the Apostles, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. Then you go out and change the world by your example of a life lived in holiness.
To be holy, we all must do the things the Scriptures mentioned today. We have to take action.
How can we let our light of truth shine in a world that prefers the darkness? Let’s start by hanging on to Jesus, who told us he is the Truth. He never changes, even when everyone wants him to stop being so radical. He is our model for representing the truth as something that cannot change no matter how much peer pressure we feel.
God, who is Truth, created the universe and everything in it. He made it according to his will and purpose, which means everything in the universe is ordered to a particular purpose.
Part of our fallenness as sons of Adam is our temptation to go against God’s plan and order. We sometimes prefer the darkness to the light of God’s truth, as though God cannot see in the dark.
But God can see in the dark, and he wants us to bear witness to the light of truth. That can be difficult, but that is being the salt of the world. When people we love seek approval for choices that are contrary to God’s plan and God’s order, we have a choice to be the light of truth in the darkness of disorder, or to go along to get along. We know what is truth because we know who is Truth. It is Jesus. Truth is just another form of the basic question we face every day: am I going to go God’s way or the other way?
When we are worn down by standing for the truth of God in a world that denies Him, this faith community – the family of God – will be waiting for us to renew us so we can go out and do it again.
It’s not any easier representing the love of God in a world that denies Him. It doesn’t always feel like it here on earth, but love is not contrary to truth. We know Jesus is God, and we know God is love. So, in a mysterious way, love and truth are the same thing in God’s eyes. To represent God’s love here as his disciples, we need to love and serve those with their backs against the wall because in truth they are our brothers and sisters. Because we believe in justice, we give to our brother what he is due: food, clothing, shelter, and – most of all – respect for his human dignity. We don’t give those with less some of what we have because we have more. We give because deep down they are us: they are fathers and sons, mothers and children, brothers and sisters who have hopes and dreams and talents and fear. It is not stuff that separates us from each other, it is only the sin of not seeing them that separates us.
Representing the love of God in a world that denies the essential humanity of God’s children is hard work. Love is an act of the will, not just an emotion. Think right now of somebody who you find annoying because he is so arrogant, or he is such a liar, or he is so selfish, or whatever reason it is that makes him come to mind when you think of the jerks in your life. Ready? Spend a few minutes each day this week wishing that guy well. Ask God to bless him, to celebrate his achievements and to forgive his failures. Here’s the work involved on your part: mean it when you pray it. I guarantee you, if we are truly loving in this act of the will with the self-sacrificial love of the Cross, we will get tired and need the family of God to be renewed so we can go out and do it again.
God called us and renewed us because he is the answer to our deepest longings. God is the security and peace of a true father’s embrace. God is that safety and security that puts our hearts at rest. Life as God’s disciple is a noble quest, something so good that it is worth getting off the couch and changing our lives to pursue. God is the holy Grail, that which is worth my whole life’s journey.
When our hearts are no longer restless and anxious, we can respond to the full reality of God’s embrace. He calls us to follow him, to be his disciples. And if we maintain that posture and attitude of being his disciple, we might discover towards the end of our lives that we have indeed become a little bit holier, a little bit more like Christ.