Be an example to all believers

Ordination to Diaconate – Br John Joseph

Br John Joseph, St Matthew in the Gospel we have just read presents us with a summary passage describing the ministry of Jesus. We are told that Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages. He was an itinerant preacher, intent on reaching the people by visiting their towns and villages. His first option for preaching and teaching, we are told, was the local synagogue. We know also that he would find large crowds coming to listen to him so he would also speak in the open, on the hillsides.

St Matthew makes the comment that when Jesus saw the people assembling he felt sorry for them. He saw that their lives were difficult. They were, as St Matthew describes, “harassed and dejected”. They came looking for consolation and inspiration. Their lives seemed aimless, lacking true leaders and spiritual guides. They were, again in the words of St Matthew, “like sheep without a shepherd”.

It is a touching insight into the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. He devoted himself to offering support for ordinary folk. He was deeply concerned by their struggles and hardships. Through his words and actions he offered them hope and new purpose. They were uplifted, encouraged, and able to return to their lives refreshed in spirit.

In addition to his words were the many healings associated with his ministry. St Matthew simply records that he cured “all kinds of diseases and sickness”. His ministry was not only words but also expressions of healing power, revealing the mercy of God towards a suffering humanity.

The Church has been entrusted with continuing the saving ministry of Jesus Christ. Its first mission is, as it was for Jesus, preaching and teaching. It is to proclaim a word that is not only true but a word that brings life.

I have been inspired by words of Pope Benedict delivered at the opening Mass of his pontificate in April 2015,

If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide…. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ ­and you will find true life.

The Christian message is a message that does enable human life to be “free, beautiful and great”. Our mission as a Church is to offer this message to the world of our time. We do not come with a message of condemnation but a message of salvation. We do not stand in judgement on individuals or our society around us but rather propose a way that leads to life.

Ordained to the Order of Deacon this evening you are entrusted by the Church with the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel in the Sacred Liturgy and of preaching. Upon being ordained you will be presented with a copy of the Gospels with these words, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach”.

Br John Joseph, your spiritual path has led you to enter a small community of brothers who have eucharistic adoration at their heart. You have found with them your spiritual home. With them you have embarked on a way of life that is grounded deeply in silent contemplation of the Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. This life which is founded in prayer flows over into a simple life of fraternity. From this basis of prayer and fraternity you make yourself available for ministry.

Christian ministry is firstly a ministry of encounter. It is a ministry built on relationships you form with people with whom you come into contact. Such people will firstly be those within the Church.

You heard the advice of the old and tried evangelist St Paul to the young Timothy, “Be an example to all believers in the way you speak and behave and in your love, your faith and your purity”. St Paul encouraged Timothy to make good use of his time by preaching and teaching. I, too, offer this recommendation. Be active, find ways, to preach and teach your brethren in the Christian community.

However, your life of Christian ministry will also involve the many people from the broader community who encounter you as a consecrated religious. Many who are not of faith will find your way of life strange and mystifying, a seeming waste.

Encounter, human relationship, is the first stage of evangelisation. Encounter leads to witness and this witness involves testimony and proclamation. For those far away from the paths of faith, the proclamation is always respectful and humble, but it does not shy away from the truth.

Be always ready to witness to what has inspired your way of life. Witness to the Lord whom you desire to be with in silent adoration. Witness to the love of God which is available to all who turn to him. Witness to the truth of the Gospel message that salvation is found in Jesus Christ. Witness to the Church which offers the path to true human life and is the source of redeeming grace.

As the Gospel verse expressed: “Go and teach all people my Gospel”, noting that it added, “I am with you always, until the end of the world”.

Br John Joseph, tonight in being ordained a deacon, be an example to your brethren in the Church in the way you speak and behave and set yourself to take every opportunity to preach and teach that many may come to know grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

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