Saturday, April 27, was a joyous and blessed day for me and for our diocese. I ordained Rev. Mr. Malachi Clark to the order of deacon at Saints John and Andrew Church in Binghamton. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below. Please join me in prayer for Malachi as he completes his formation leading to priestly ordination. Remember also all our seminarians who are studying for the priesthood for our diocese. May the Lord continue to bless us with vocations to the ordained ministry.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
This is the season of new life. Last Sunday we proclaimed, “The Lord is risen Alleluia.” This past week the Gospel reading each day recounted an appearance of the risen Lord. Mary Magdalen, Peter, John, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples at the Sea on Tiberias — one and all they encountered the risen Lord. Today’s Gospel also refers to these meetings between Jesus and some of His followers.
For 50 days, the Church will continue to proclaim this glorious message. The death and resurrection of Jesus is truly the “good news” which gives meaning to our lives. Because of the resurrection we have new life. We are “in Christ” as a new creation. When Christ appears in glory, we too “will appear with him in glory.” In the Resurrection of the Lord, we have the basis for our faith.
During the Easter season at each Mass we pray, “. . . overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exalts in your praise” (Easter Preface). Because of this extraordinary event, so central to our life and faith, we praise the Father “with greater joy than ever.” Two thousand years after the event, we are the witnesses to the Paschal Mystery present in the Church’s proclamation in Word and Sacrament.
Yes, this is truly “good news” which we have received. Likewise, it is the “good news” which we must proclaim. The commission to proclaim God’s word cannot be taken lightly. In today’s first reading, the leaders of the people considered Peter and John to be ordinary, uneducated men and yet they were “bold” — brave, courageous, and confident when they proclaimed the word. This amazed the elders and the scribes. Then the “light dawned,” so to speak, and they recognized the reason for Peter and John’s confidence and courage. They were “companions of Jesus.”
If we are to proclaim the good news effectively, we need to know Jesus. This knowledge cannot be abstract and theoretical. It must be knowledge founded in an experience of Jesus as savior, friend, and brother — a true companion that walks with us as He walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Pope Francis tell us, “The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us (The Joy of the Gospel, 264). If we linger with the word, our minds will be opened to understand the scriptures and our hearts will burn with love and we will go forth and proclaim the good news with joy and enthusiasm.
We need divine assistance to proclaim God’s word. “We are not asked to be flawless, but to keep growing and wanting to grow as we advance along the path of the Gospel” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 174). When we acknowledge our weaknesses and our desire to grow in our relationship to Christ, we can abandon ourselves to Christ, “saying the words of Peter, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I have I give you’” (Acts 3:6).
How vital it is, as the Gospel reminds us, to remain in God’s love and to remember that God chooses us, commissions us to speak His word. We proclaim His word especially by the way we conduct ourselves. By our lives, we must show that Christ is alive, that His teachings are true, and that in fact, He makes a difference in our lives. Proclaiming the good news is the Church’s mission. It is our mission.
This Eucharist has a unique meaning because of the share in the sacrament of orders which we are about to confer on our brother, Malachi. The apostles chose deacons to be special ministers of charity. Today, in a rite which comes to us from my predecessors in the apostolic college, I grant this chosen man a special gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of my hands. Thus, Malachi is chosen to be a minister of God’s love. As our brother, he strives to become a life-giving sign of the presence of Jesus, the servant in our midst. May he experience our prayerful support in faith, hope, and love.
My dear brother, the proclamation of the Gospel which you must carry on in the name of Christ and His Church must become evident in every aspect of your diaconate ministry. Through your sacred ministry, you become “a distributor of God’s manifold grace.” Be generous in your service.
When you exercise the ministry of the word, be faithful to the teaching of the apostles, as it has been handed over to us in the Church. The people have a right to hear God’s Word — His message — and not your own. “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” (1Cor 4:5).
In your liturgical ministry, you will proclaim Christ’s saving presence especially in the celebration of Baptism and the distribution to the faithful of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Body and Blood. It will be your duty also, at the bishop’s direction, to exhort believers and unbelievers alike and to instruct them in holy doctrine. You will preside over public prayer, bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and conduct funeral rites. As you fulfill these responsibilities you will witness to the Church’s belief in Christ, “who lives to make intercession for us.”
Your service of charity is intertwined inextricably with the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments. As Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, the service of charity, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the celebration of the sacraments are the constitutive elements of the Church. How often Pope Francis reminds us that we must notice those on the fringes, those often neglected and overlooked. He exhorts us to have a “Samaritan Attitude.” In other words, we cannot ignore and walk by those who are in need. Jesus Himself made it very clear that our eternal destiny depends on recognizing Christ in others — all others, certainly, but especially those named in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
As a minister of charity, be a servant of love. Whatever you do on behalf of others — whether caring for the sick or elderly, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, teaching the ignorant — do it always as the apostle Paul tells us: “with perfect humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another lovingly.” Let faith reveal to you the very person of Christ in every person who asks for your assistance.
As you pray with and for the Church, particularly in the Liturgy of the Hours, may you come to trust more and more in the strength which God provides for you through this prayer that sanctifies the hours of the day.
By your own free choice, Malachi, you present yourself for the order of Deacon. Know that you will exercise your ministry committed to the celibate state. Know that celibacy is both a sign of pastoral charity and an inspiration to it, as well as a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. Compelled by the sincere love of Christ the Lord and living this state with total dedication, you will cling to Christ more easily with an undivided heart. You will free yourself more completely for this service of God and His people, and minister more effectively in the work of spiritual rebirth. Firmly rooted and grounded in the faith, you are to show yourself chaste and beyond reproach before God and man, as is proper for a minister of Christ and the steward of God’s mysteries.
In a few moments, you will make a promise of obedience and respect to me and my successors, with this entire community as witnesses. This promise must become manifest in the way in which you remain aware of your unique bond to the Diocese of Syracuse.
Malachi, remember you did not choose Christ. It is Christ who has mysteriously chosen you and who has been generous in bestowing special graces on you. Through prayer and continuous study, grow in the knowledge of Him whom you serve. A deeply spiritual life is essential if you are to be a true servant of the Lord and His people.
As you strive to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, be comforted by the prayerful support of your bishop, by the priests and deacons of our beloved diocese, by the seminarians and consecrated religious who journey with you, and by your family and friends.
With affectionate loyalty and loving obedience, be attentive to the teachings and directives of our Holy Father and of your bishop. To them, the fullness of the pastoral office has been entrusted. By the sacramental gift which you are about to receive, you become “a public person,” a representative of the Church in a new way. Others will look to you for an example which encourages and supports them in the faith. Fulfill all of your tasks responsibly and with deep humility in imitation of Jesus the servant of God.
Before all others, know of the loving intercession of our Blessed Mother. When Mary met her cousin Elizabeth she honestly and humbly declared, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Through Our Lady’s prayers and inspired by the example of her life, may you make her words your own this day and always. Sing the praises of the Lord, Malachi, for God has done great things for you.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.