Do not be afraid - Ordination to the Diaconate of Br Crisanto Mendoza

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Cris, this day has finally arrived. I am aware of your anxiety over the last two years as you had to wait until the way was cleared for you to be ordained a deacon. Your vocational journey has been a long one. I know that today is a day of great joy for you – and for us – that you are able to realise what has been in your heart for many years.

At the heart of your vocation to the priesthood is the operation of a divine plan. The divine plan – or better, the will of God for us – is something envisaged from the very beginning of our lives.

We read this evening in the first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” This is a wonderfully consoling thought. God knows us personally, intimately. Life is not just some random outworking of events. There is a plan and a purpose, even if at times it seems hard to identify. God has had his eye on us and is active in guiding us.

The reading goes on and says, “Before you came to birth I consecrated you.” Tonight, as you receive the Sacrament of Orders and are raised to the Order of Deacon, this consecration is realised in a particular way.

We read next that Jeremiah is quite overwhelmed by what the Lord expects from him. I am sure you, in your own way, can feel somewhat overwhelmed by the new responsibility being placed on you. Now you are to be a minister of the Church. You are to be a minister of sacraments like baptism and marriage. Like Jeremiah, you are to preach.

You may feel in your own heart just what Jeremiah exclaimed: “Ah Lord, I do not know how to speak: I am a child.” Now Cris, you are not exactly a child, but you may feel keenly a certain anxiety about preaching authoritatively in the name of the Church. You may sense a degree of inadequacy when you consider what is expected of you.
The Lord, we note, was firm with Jeremiah – and I, as bishop, am going to be firm likewise: “Do not say, ‘I am a child’. God now to those I send you.”

The Lord overlooks Jeremiah’s natural fears and commands him to “say whatever I command you”. Cris, you are to speak not your own words; you are to speak what the Lord commands you. Your first task as preacher is to be attentive to the Lord. Preaching is fashioned deep in the soul. It is formed through prayer and attention to the Word of God. Preaching is to be the message of God, and not just our own ideas. This can only come from a heart singularly devoted to God. It can only emerge out of our spirit and not out of our head.

Cris, you know you have been called. You know that even though the path has been long and, at times, it must have seemed that you would never realise your calling to ordained ministry. Now you are being ordained. You are being ordained for ministry.

Do not be afraid. Step forward into the mission that is now to given to you by the Church. Become a minister of the Word and a minister of the Sacraments. Be a servant of Christ and a servant of the people. Be an instrument of God’s grace for the glory of God and the upbuilding of his people.

For each of us called by the Lord, it is not in the end that we are perfect in all we do – for we are not – it is rather that the Lord identifies in our hearts what is the final and real motivation for our response to his call: we love him! We want to offer ourselves to him.

Cris, in the living of your calling to ministry in the Church, the Lord only seeks one thing from us: it is that we love him. To love Christ means simply to have him at the centre of our lives. Like St Paul we can say, “For me to live is Christ.” He is the animating principle of our lives. We know deep within that we want to live our entire life focused on Jesus Christ. I want to proclaim him, the joy of my life. I want to help others know him. I want to be an instrument of his love and grace touching the lives of others. I live for him. No day goes by but I am in personal communion with him. I cannot envisage my life apart from him.

Cris, as you are ordained to the ministry of deacon this evening you are prepared to accept a call to embrace the celibate state that he might be single minded in giving his all to Christ.

You commit yourself to join your voice with the choir of the Church offering a daily sacrifice of praise in the Divine Office.

Cris, you are willing to offer your life up in service of God and the people of God. You do not seek your own glory or accomplishment, but you are content to lay down your life in daily availability to the needs of the people.

You desire to be an instrument of bringing the love and compassion of God to those in need – be it physical, emotional or spiritual.

Cris, know that tonight the Lord confirms his intentions for you. You are to be deacon, and thence priest.

The Church entrusts to you the ministry of the Word. You are the minister of the Gospel in the celebration of the Mass. You will be called upon to preach. Proclaim the word with clarity, boldness and zeal. It is the word of truth, of light and of life. Never be ashamed of the Gospel and never back away from its challenging truth.

The Church entrusts to you the administration of the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. You may be called upon to celebrate marriages and to conduct funerals when there is no Mass. You become a minister of the transforming power of God brought into people’s lives through the sacraments. Celebrate each sacramental moment with profound reverence and prayer.

The Church asks you to have a special interest in works of charity, following the example of the first deacons and the ancient tradition of the Church. Develop in your heart a great compassion, kindness and patience. Give to those who are in need, not just practical support, but be a witness to the love of Christ.

In all of this the Church encompasses your ministry as deacon with the notion of service. You follow the example of Christ himself who did not come to be served but to serve. Give your life in willing and generous service. It will become the great joy of your life as you see the fruit of your labours.

Cris, we gathered here unite together in commending you to God: that as you embrace the Lord’s call you will know in your life joy in the Lord’s service.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Click here to see photos of the ordination:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/122875442@N04/albums/72157688099534464