Dear brothers and sisters, these five young men, your relatives and friends, are about to be ordained deacons, ministers of Jesus Christ, who came among His disciples as one who served. The word “deacon,” from the Greek “diakonos” means servant. Jesus Himself is their model. Our Lord said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to serve His Father and to do the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. God sent His Son to serve His people, to free them from sin and death, and to draw them into His Kingdom. And this is the service of those who are ordained for the Church’s ministry. They are called not to be served, but to serve. Jesus Himself has set the example. He gave His life in humble service. The Son of God became a man, emptied Himself, as Saint Paul says, “taking the form of a servant.” During the Last Supper, Jesus showed that He was among the disciples “as one who serves” when He made the humble gesture of washing the feet of the disciples, a duty of slaves, thereby setting an example so that His disciples might imitate Him in service and in mutual love. One of the Church Fathers, Saint Polycarp, wrote that Jesus was the diakonos, the deacon, the servant, of all.
By their ordination as deacons, Nathan, Jay, David, Thomas, and Patrick will be configured to Christ, who made Himself the deacon or servant of all. They will share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way as they are marked with the diaconal character. Before they are ordained priests next year, God-willing, it is important that they first serve as deacons. And when they are ordained priests, they will still be deacons, since the priestly character will not erase their diaconal character. Jesus the Priest was always the Servant. And so it is with us. Underneath, this chasuble I am wearing a deacon’s dalmatic, the vestment of the deacon, which reminds me that as a bishop, I am also still a deacon.
My brothers, the tasks you will do as deacons, your service in the liturgy, your service of God’s Word as preachers, and your service of charity are all very important expressions of the identity you will have as deacons. In carrying out these tasks, I encourage you to allow them to touch your heart. In preaching, serving at the altar, baptizing, etc., allow what you are doing to form you, your minds and hearts, to teach you to offer your whole selves in serving the Kingdom of God and His Church. May your humble service spring from hearts and minds that are conformed to the heart and mind of Jesus! In other words, may what you do shape your way of thinking and acting ao that you truly embrace day by day the attitude and interior disposition of Jesus. Here is where your prayer life is so very important. Diaconal service is not just about doing various tasks, as important as they are, but it is about doing these holy tasks with the mind and heart of Jesus, with a generous spirit of service. The sacrament you receive today develops this inclination in you as you receive God’s grace for diaconal service. May you open yourselves to the Holy Spirit who imbues your will with this special grace, so that in all your actions, you will be motivated by an ever-new and profound desire to serve your brothers and sisters.
Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote the following: “Deacons serve the mysteries of Christ and the Church, and must abstain from any vice, strive to please God, and be ready for any good work for the salvation of souls. Th