HOMILY FOR THE ORDINATION OF THE DEACONS
IN ST. PATRICK’S COLLEGE MAYNOOTH.
On Sunday last, 28 May, Archbishop Michael Neary ordained six new deacons in the College Chapel, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. One of the new deacons is Rev. Gerard Quirke from Tuam. This is the text of the Archbishop’s homily.
I extend a very warm welcome to you all, to the deacons who are about to be ordained, to their families, to the President, staff and students of the College as we ordain new deacons.
There is great richness in the readings for this Feast of the Ascension. In the First Reading for the Act of the Apostles we are presented with a fearful waiting community which is anxious and bewildered, having very little resources of their own. They are preoccupied with whether Jesus will restore the Kingdom to Israel. Their outlook is very myopic, introspective and insecure. Yet this fragile frightened group will be given power, courage, energy, imagination and special resources.
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles serves as a introduction to the entire Book of Acts and also to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, while at the same time focusing us on the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Understandably the Feast of the Ascension tends to focus our attention on what is happening to Jesus, whereas the text in Acts places the emphasis on what is happening in the lives of the early Christians and what the Spirit is bringing about in them as they become “witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth”. In a sense the Ascension is orientated towards Pentecost when the promise will be realised.
As you are being ordained to Diaconate there will be times when you too will have experiences of the absence of the Lord in your ministry, times of confusion and doubt. Yet, the Ascension of Jesus heralds a time of activity for the Church. The reading from the Ephesians acknowledges that the Church is in great need of wisdom, of revelation and hope. We need to be conscious of and open to God’s power. The power which the Community will share is God’s own power. The Church will be sustained by that very power.
As we focus on today’s gospel from the end of St. Matthew, it is easy to identify with the 11 disciples, they worship the Lord but their worship was interspersed with doubt. The sight of the risen Lord did not remove the uncertainties and the questions. We, like the disciples, whether we are students for the priesthood, deacons, priests, the people of God or bishops, so frequently find ourselves vacillating between adoration and decision, between prayer and puzzlement. Yet Jesus persists with these disciples and so he does with us. It is to these faltering followers that the great commission is give to go out, to make disciples, baptise and teach. Underlining the commission however is the promise of the continuing presence of the Lord with them. Because of this promise there weaknesses will not stifle the Commission.
If I might focus on the importance of teaching and obeying Jesus’ words? In your ministry you will have responsibility for teaching. Perhaps it is something which we tend to recoil from as priests and bishops. It is very challenging to present Christ’s message so that its newness will always be …….and consoling for those who hear it. It will demand searching for new ways, a new language and a different medium from the tried and tested and yet we will have responsibility to ensure that it is Christ’s message we are preaching and not ourselves. The purpose of our preaching will be to nurture the people of God with God’s own message of hope. This Gospel underlines the fact that we must always be aware of claiming too much for ourselves. We baptise, teach and make disciples in the name of Jesus and with the power of the risen Lord. We are dependent on him for our ministry. This calls for both confidence in the one that we represent and at the same time humility that will acknowledge the fact that we are frail, human instruments of God’s grace. This ought to help us guard against, on the one hand, the arrogance which may so easily surface when things are going well, but also the kind of self-pity which we hear so frequently when we become aware of the enormity of the task facing us and the work which remains undone.