Homily – Ordination to the Diaconate of Adrian Chan and Namora Anderson
ORDINATION TO THE DIACONATE OF
ADRIAN CHAN AND NAMORA ANDERSON
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
FRIDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2017
7.00PM ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
1 Timothy 3:8-10,12,13
We welcome tonight Adrian Chan his Godparents Gabriel and Therese, and Namora Anderson his parents Clay and Tina and brother Peter, their friends and families who gather with the Archdiocese for their Diaconate Ordination.
Let us recollect ourselves in the presence of Christ before we proceed any further.
Grace is at work here!
Good sound Catholic theology always begins with the theology of grace.
Before we ever go to God, God comes to us in gift and in covenant love. All is gift. Even our feeble, sinful yet forgiven response in faith and conversion is an action of grace from the God of all steadfast love and mercy.
So, a truly Catholic response to our Diaconate Ordination tonight is to join with Adrian Chan and Namora Anderson, their family and friends both here and in Singapore in thanking the gift initiative of the Almighty God for the budding forth of their vocations – expressed now in the sacrament of Holy Orders – the Order of Deacons.
In tonight’s scriptures, as always, we find inspiration for our pilgrim path ahead.
We ponder on the first reading from Jeremiah and say in co-discernment with Adrian and Namora that “before you came to birth I consecrated you…Go now to those to whom I send you.”
There’s always the biblical reassurance when we follow the Lord there is his deeply consoling message that “I am with you to protect you.”
The Gospel tonight draws this into total harmony with the life, death, Resurrection, Pentecost (Paschal Mystery) of the Lord expressed in the intimacy of the Trinity.
Jesus says “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.”
This Saving Word from John’s Gospel needs to be noted well. That all ministry is based on our friendship with Jesus. It is all about our rich, deep and personal friendship in the Risen Lord.
We need to note well, however, the Pauline Requirement of Deacons expressed in the 2nd reading from St Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy. He says, “They (Deacons) must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith.” What does this mean? It means many things but clearly three come to my mind immediately.
First of all, there must be the belief that Jesus wants to use our Deacons tonight as Servants of the Word.
Like Mary the mother of Jesus, a servant is a slave of God. In this context, a Deacon is a slave of God’s Living Word. We ask for this grace in this Mass right now for Adrian and Namora.
You are to be always open to receive the grace of God’s love for you deep within you. We have Mary the mother of God as a great example here.
The experience must be a living awareness that we are loved by God.
There is a lovely and ancient Christian Story I wish to share about the love of God. “If all the Bibles were destroyed except one, and if this one bible was badly damaged, except one page, and if this one page was illegible except one line, and if this one line could be read…”God is love”…then all the meaning and message of the entire Bible would have been preserved.”
Pope Francis (in Evangelium Gaudium #165) in describing the expression “Kerygma” as the fundamental principal of our preaching says that preachers must first experience that “you are loved by the God of love.”
In preaching in words and in actions the proclamation of the love of God to the world must be your true vocation for the rest of your lives.
In other words, we must love the Word of love and proclaim it in love to all.
Secondly, there must be belief that Jesus wants to use you as a Servant of the Altar.
Deacons are to lead in public prayer, to Baptise, Marry, Bury in his name.
All this is climaxed especially at the Eucharist. Here all the four presences of Christ are manifest: Ministers, Congregation, Word of God and the Eucharistic species.
As a man of prayer, Deacons are to use this Eucharistic lens through which they are to lead people to God and God to people. This requires great humility and to become more and more a lover of silences. Deacons are not to perform but they are to, as St Benedict says “Hold yourself still before the gaze of God.”
I remember once speaking to a Deacon. He said that unless he preaches he does not have much to do in the Mass. He said he felt like a liturgical flower pot! I said back to him, “you are not on a concert stage to perform, you are on an altar sanctuary standing before God in utter simplicity.
Thirdly, there must also be the belief that Jesus wants to use you as a Servant of charity.
I recall the Prayer of Ordination that is going to be prayed in just a few moments: “May they remain strong and steadfast in Christ who came not to be served but to serve.”
This word “Serve” is so important to all of us who are baptised but particularly to the Ordained Deacon. We don’t want Deacons who are “presbytery” Deacons! These are Deacons who prefer the company of their own room in front of a screen of some sort. And secondly we don’t want “sacristy” Deacons. These prefer the smell of incense rather than the smell of the poor!
So let us not confuse the word “Serve.” This reminds me of an amusing story about the word “serve”.
From the scriptures and Rite of Ordination we read, “To serve; not to be served.” By the way, this is the moto of the recent retired Bishop of Wagga Wagga, Bishop Gerard Hannah.
He tells the story that on his Episcopal Ordination at a party thrown for him afterwards, a big Ordination cake was prepared. Written on it was his Episcopal Motto “To serve not to be served.”
The cake was sent out to the kitchen to be cut up into pieces for everybody.
Not much of the cake seemed to come out of the kitchen! People were keen to have a piece. The Bishop went out to see what had happened.
The people told him that they could only serve half the cake. He asked why? They said to him “well the second half of the cake had not to be served!” Written on it!
Deacons are to be like St Steven, the first Deacon in the Acts of the Apostles. They are going out of themselves and out of their comfort zones to proclaim in any way they possibly can the fundamental Christian proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. They may do this in words but it is better to do it a nonverbal fashion. Deacons will find the presence of Christ most eloquently present particularly amongst the periphery people of the world.
As the expression goes “God whispers in silence and shouts out in the poor.”
We know here in Canberra for instance that youth homelessness is at an all-time high. It’s been a cold winter and to think that so many young people are wondering the streets at night looking for home should send us out of our comfort zones to stand alongside them and see in them the presence of Christ. I’m also thinking too of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Recently I visited an Aboriginal community in the Archdiocese for Mass. The aborigines stay outside the Church during Mass. They don’t come into the Church. People seem to think that this is just the way they do things. But until the Aboriginal people feel that they are welcomed inside the Church then our message of Evangelisation in Australia seems to be rather shallow.
As we proceed with the Mass now let us pray for our dear brothers Adrian and Namora. They are fine men. Let us pray that their time as Deacons will, please God, eventually progress to the Ordination to the Priesthood next year.