Homily – Ordination of Jomer Calma

Numbers 3:5-9, 1 Timothy 4:12-16, Matthew 20:25-28

On this day after Ash Wednesday in the penitential spirit of Lent we come humbly to ordain our dear brother, Jomer Calma, to the Diaconate here at Wagga. 

Our dear brother Jomer, you have been graced in your life with the presence of God in so many different ways.  In this Mass we think, in a particular way, about your parents, family and loved ones in the Philippines.  I know they are praying with us now spiritually at this time and we join with them in their intentions in this beautiful Mass of Ordination.

It has been a long journey of grace to bring you to this moment.  Please God, the journey will continue, particularly the journey to the Priesthood in the times ahead. 

On this evening you receive the first Order of the Sacrament of Holy Orders – The Diaconate.

The word “Grace” is so appropriate.  It’s a gift from God.  Yes of course, you have tried your very best over the years to respond to the demands and pastoral challenges in your years of formation which will continue.  But ultimately, deep down within, it is the subtle but sure and soft voice of the Lord calling you to ministry amongst us. 

My eyes are drawn to the Second Reading of today’s Mass from St Paul’s letter to Timothy where St Paul says the following  “You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophet spoke and the body of elders lay their hands on you: do not neglect it.” (1 Tim 4:14)  We pray in this Mass, that this spiritual gift of a vocation to the Diaconate be gifted to you fulsomely in this Mass.  Realise that we are with you.  Our prayers and thoughts and every encouragement, support you and accompany you on this pilgrim journey while we go together towards the Easter mysteries, particularly in the Lenten season.

Apart from this crucial word “Grace” an allied word comes up especially when we think of the Diaconate. 

It is the word “Service.”  The Grace of God is always linked with Service.  The Gospel of tonight from Matthew Chapter 20 gives us the Lord’s teaching on Service.  It comes immediately after the mother of Zebedee’s sons’ places and imprudent request before the Lord for some sort of favouratism to be given to her two disciple sons. 

The only thing that the Lord can offer her sons is a prophecy of the Suffering Servant of Christ on Calvary.  That is the essence of Christian leadership.  It is always a Service of leadership aligned with Christ Crucified.  Nothing else is worthy of the term “Service”, in our Christian eyes.

So the Lord says the following about Service and Suffering leadership.  When he says “anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is the quintesencial definition of Christian Service linked with the Crucified Christ. 

Our dear brother Joma, may you live this type of service out not just intellectually but in fact all the days of your life.

In the ministry of the Deacon, however, this Servant leadership is expressed in three particular ways. 

First, it is a Service of the Word.  In the second reading from today St Paul caution’s us to “be conscious about what you do and what you teach: persevere in this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

St Paul’s instinct of course is the instinct of Christianity – the service or preaching and teaching must always be linked with our life style.  There is nothing more hypercritical than to preach one thing and to in your daily life practice something else.  The Sex Abuse crisis in the Catholic Church at the moment, in a most regrettable way, is replete with almost diabolical examples of people failing to practice what they preach.  We think particularly of the victims of sexual abuse and the healing in these days where the Australian Bishops have asked us to have days of fasting and reparation for all those victims effected by the abuse by Church personnel.

So, dear Joma, always preach the Word of God with great conviction.  Certainly in your Homilies it is good to defer to the scripture commentators.  But perhaps it’s best not to do that first up.  The first way of preaching, in a way that converts people to God is that you have yourself digested the living Word of God and you are sharing the way this has become food for you so that it might become food for those who listen to you preach.  So make sure that when you preach you have digested the Word of God in a way that is comprehensible to the people you preach to.  You’re already seen as a humble and simple man.  That is your great strength.  May that simplicity and humility in your preaching bring many to an encounter with Jesus in the years ahead, please God.

Secondly, it is the Service of the Altar.  In the first reading today from the book of Numbers we hear of Moses applying the requirements of God to their communal prayers.  He is told that those leading in prayer must “undertake the duties encumbered on them and the whole community before the tent of meeting, in serving the dwelling, they will be in charge of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting and undertake the duties incumbent on the Israelites in serving the dwelling.”

The Deacon is very much to serve the Sacred mysteries – the dwelling place of God.  He assists the Priest’s at the Altar, but also is able to officiate at many of our Sacraments, particularly Baptism and Matrimony.  He is also able to lead prayers for those who have died.

Dear Joma, do not become what they call a “Sacristy Priest.”  Whereas it is important to serve at the Altar of God, this is the point of “arrival” and the point of “departure” for all your pastoral work.  Your attentiveness to the service of the Altar must be the fruit of all that has happened in the days before and after, and be a spring board for pastoral charity.

This brings us to the third Service, the Deacon is to be given to the service of Charity.

Pope Francis continually emphasises this aspect of our service.  He always tells us to be most attentive pastorally to the people on the peripheries.  We are to go out to the poor and the marginalised and those in deep need of Christ’s merciful redemption and conversion.  He tells us to develop a “culture of tenderness”, imitating the tenderness of God the Father. 

This is the Service of charity to the “widows and orphans” that biblically draws us to the very origin of the office of Deacon in the New Testament.

So dear Joma, always be a friend to those who are struggling and are the battlers.  Your own migrant background as an Australian of Filipino origin is significant here.  Never forget your humble origins and realise that so many are struggling, particularly those coming to Australian as migrants and refugees.  Have a particular tenderness for them in your ministry in the years ahead.

We learn so much from the poor.  God speaks to us at all times, but always shouts out to us in the voiceless ones on the periphery.  Here in the Wagga Diocese give particular attention to the homeless and those who are marginalised for any particular reason.  May they become your special friends.

So we now continue on with the ordination to the Diaconate.  We thank the Lord that the Filipino community in Australia continues to encourage vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life.  May that continue in the future.  We thank the migrant communities, especially Filipino, for their great love of the Church and the way in which when they come to this country, they bring the greatest gift that they possibly can to enrich us all – their living friendship with Jesus our Lord and Saviour. 

May Mary the mother of all Deacons and Priests, and all the Saints especially the Filipino Saints protect you and guide you all the days of your life to Jesus our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn