Let me share three points. Firstly, about the Diaconate. Secondly, about the timing of this ordination —the Solemnity of St. Joseph. And thirdly, about prayer and discernment as essential in your ministry.

Let’s start with the first. There are three Orders in the Ministry of Leadership in the Church: the Episcopate, the Presbyterate, and the Diaconate. I think of the Diaconate, not as the lowest among the three ranks of the ordained ministry of leadership in the Church; I think of it rather as the core.

I therefore invite you dear candidates for this ministry to visualize the ordained ministries of the Church, not as ranks, but as layers, with the Diaconate at the very center.

Without the Diaconate at the core, both ministries of Bishops and Presbyters will become hollow or empty. We don’t stop being deacons at heart when we are raised to the orders of presbyters and bishops.

Diakonia is best translated, not as SERVICE but as SERVANTHOOD. It is an attitude or disposition that prepares a disciple of Christ for leadership and prevents him from developing the attitude of a worldly Boss who lords it over the Church.

Remember what Jesus said in reply to James and John who were aspiring for positions of power in their group? In Mark 10:43-44, he said, “IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all.”

That is why we have invented the term SERVANT-LEADER. In the eyes of the world, it makes no sense because it sounds like a contradiction in terms. You see, in this world, normally, a servant does not lead, and a leader does not serve. Not so in the world of Christ, which he calls the reign of God. The two must always go together.

- Newsletter -

Because people will think of your ordination as an elevation to clerical status, they will start addressing you by titles, which are normal things in secular society. Titles like Reverend, Very Reverend, Most Reverend.

They address Bishops the way they address leaders in high government offices, like presidents and ambassadors—Your Excellency for bishops, Your Grace for archbishops, your Eminence for Cardinals, Your Holiness for the Pope.

In other countries, they’ll even call us Your Lordship. It is understandable when it is the office-holders in secular societies who do it, as a matter of protocol. It usually means they also expect to be addressed in the same way.

It is a scandalous thing when we start to get used to it within our own Church circles, or when we expect to be addressed with those titles. They are totally meaningless in the world of Jesus.

That is why the Pope will never sign his name as “His Holiness, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis”. In his letters, he signs his name only as “+Franciscus” bishop of Rome—yes, with a cross before it. Bishops too, by tradition, don’t sign their names as “My Excellency, the Most Reverend so and so”.

A cross before our name is quite enough.

I once asked a former Nuncio to the Philippines why we do that because when we list down names for prayer intentions and put a cross before some of them, it means those are names of people who have died already.

The Nuncio smiled at me and said, “Yes, that is what it means. It means the moment you accepted to become a bishop you’ve also accepted that you’ve died to yourself so that you can live fully in Christ.”

Now for the second point. You are being ordained on the very day of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the husband of a wife who remains a VIRGIN, and the father of a child who does not carry his DNA.

It takes a lot of dying to self to do what Joseph did for the Holy Family and for the realization of salvation history. He had to let go of his own dreams to pursue God’s dreams. He had to let go of the possibility of fathering his own child in order to serve as a father to the Son of God. He had to let go of his personal will and embrace God’s will as his own.

And so I ask you dear candidate-deacons to emulate Joseph as your model in KENOSIS, in what St. Paul calls the spirituality of self-emptying. If you are to participate at all in the Church’s Ministry of Leadership, in the role of headship in the Body of Christ, you are to constantly remind yourselves that this ministry is one of REPRESENTATION, not SUBSTITUTION.

You lend your whole life to Christ so that he can lead his body, the Church. When you preach, you are to learn to speak so that only Christ is heard. This ministry is about him, not about you. The more there is of you, the less there will be of him. The less there is of you, the more there will be of him.

Finally, for the third point. The deacon is called to be like Joseph, a man of PRAYER and DISCERNMENT. You will be dressed in vestments called dalmatics, which are but dignified aprons to remind you to be like waiters at the table whose focus is on the one they serve.

You will not be able to proclaim God’s Word unless you’ve taken time to listen, to be attentive to God’s Word, and to understand God’s will. Like Joseph, be a man of discernment by familiarizing yourself with God’s voice, God’s promptings, and God’s ways through prayer.

In your life and ministry, you are bound to hear many voices; you have to learn to sort them out, to know what is from God and what is not. The loudest voice tends to be that of Satan, who will desperately try to distract you by massaging your ego, your self-importance, and your need for self-affirmation.

He will make you demand your need to be consoled, understood, and loved as a right. But like Joseph, learn to listen to God’s voice even in your dreams. Accustom yourselves to inner silence and solitude.

Allow God to reorient your lives through Jesus Christ his Son who has called you to be his friends, and to teach you how to be servants of God’s kingdom on earth, how to be instruments of his peace, so that: where there is hatred you bring love, where there is injury you bring pardon, where there’s doubt-faith, where there’s despair-hope, where there’s darkness-light, where there’s sadness-joy.

Pray to the Divine Master that, at all times, you seek, not so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, and to be loved as to love. That it is only in giving that you receive, in pardoning that you are pardoned, and in dying that you give life.

Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, for the Diaconal Ordination of Ten Dominican Friars, Solemnity of St. Joseph, 19 March 2024, Mt. 1:16,18-21,24a

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support LiCAS.news

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.