Sacred heart Cathedral, Bendigo
20th September, 2014
First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-9 "To whomever I send you, you shall go.
Second Reading: Romans 12:4-8 "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.
GOSPEL: JOHN 15: 9-17 "it was not you who chose me, but I chose you
‘As the Father has loved me, so do I love you’. These words in the Gospel of St John don’t just give us a wonderful insight into the love that Christ has for us, they also provide us with a wonderful inspiration to respond to that love. This liturgy today is a ceremony of love, of joy and of hope.
We congratulate and thank Stephen Bolling, Novelito Lim and Junray Rayna, as they respond to the love of Christ in presenting themselves here today for ordination to the diaconate, in preparation for the priesthood in the coming year.
As portrayed in the scripture readings they have selected for this ordination today, the vocation to Holy Orders is predicated on being called by Christ. In the first reading, the theological point of God’s call to Jeremiah is to understand our dependence on God. It is a simple confession that human ability, wisdom or strength are not the means by which God works his purposes in the world; but rather through the power of God at work within people. Jeremiah is conscious of his limitations, but strengthened by the knowledge that a man who has God within him, need never be afraid. He was called to great work: he would go forth to where God sends him and speak only the Word of God.
In the words of Saint Paul in our second reading, we find again the faithful echo of the teaching of Jesus himself, which reveals the mystical unity of Christ with his disciples and the disciples with each other, presenting it as an image and extension of that mystical communion that binds the Father to the Son, and the Son to the Father in the bond of love, the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, in this reading we have a logical and beautiful example of the nature of "oneness." Both in this letter to the Romans and in other places, St. Paul insists that the Church forms one body, of which Christ himself is the head. Christ, servant of God for humanity, is present through the Spirit, in the Church, his Body, from which he cannot be separated. Whilst there are many different parts to the one body, in the building up of the Body of Christ, it is quite clear that each person ought to be attentive to imparting his own gifts. We all have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.
In the diaconate, the Church grounds all ordained ministry in the threefold structure of the ministry of the Word, of the liturgy, and of charity. These three ministries correspond to revelation and faith, by which the Word of God, who is love, is preached and handed on in the Church. During the ordination, the new deacons promise to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their diocesan bishop. They will undertake more theological studies and spiritual formation before being ordained to the priesthood.
Central to the ordination of a deacon is the presentation of the Book of Gospels. As each candidate holds the book of Gospels in his hands, I will say “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” By their own free choice and in keeping with the tradition of the Church, they will live this ministry as Deacons in the celibate state. This is not as a deprivation, but as a sign and symbol of spiritual freedom to single-mindedly serve the Lord in his Church, through their promise of celibacy. They will give witness that God should be served above all else.
Saint John tells us that Jesus compares his Father’s love for him, with his own love for us. Who can fathom the depths of meaning in these words: “As the Father has loved me, so do I love you.” Our growth in our own belief in these words and our understanding of them is almost a definition of our growth in our Catholic Faith.
This saying of Jesus takes us way above all the human images; all the human descriptions and all the other natural examples that even the gospels give us, of Jesus’ love for us. “As the Father has loved me, so do I love you.” This takes us into the very depth of the life of the Blessed Trinity itself.
Thus, for you today, Junray, Stephen and Novelito, the ordination to diaconate is not merely another formal step on your journey to priesthood. You are called by the laying on of hands to be as deacons, the hands of the Church for deeds of compassion and service. You are called to be part of the formal Prayer of the Church and you are called in a special way to be heralds of the Gospel. You are receiving and sharing the love of Jesus and his Father, and experiencing joy and energy in doing so. You are ordained a deacon to exercise ministry always with the heart of a servant.
We congratulate you on your receptivity to God’s Grace and all that you have personally invested in responding to God’s call. Be assured of our support and friendship in the continuing journey.
I warmly congratulate and thank your families and invite them with your friends, seminarians and all people of our Diocese of Sandhurst, to join my brother priests and me as we pray for Stephen, Junray and Novelito today, that God’s grace of Holy Orders may make them dedicated servants in ministry to the Church. May Mary, Mother of the Clergy, intercede for them so that –as deacons and as future priests -they may show forth the face of Christ, the face of God’s own love, to our world.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson