Living the Truth in Love: Take Up the Heart of Christ: Homily given at the Diaconate Ordination, Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sept. 2014

My brothers, Frank, John and Wayne, it is a great joy for me to be with you, your wives, your families and all gathered here at St. Ignatius Cathedral on this significant day. It is also a great joy to be with my brother priests and deacons gathered for this occasion on which these three men will receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and be ordained as deacons for the services of the Diocese of Palm Beach. They will become part of an outstanding fraternity of deacons in Palm Beach who give themselves to the service of the Church in a wonderful manner. As they receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they will also be joined more closely to the priests as they assist them in the ministry of Jesus Christ. As you all know, we have extraordinary priests who serve in our parishes and in various ministries. At the very beginning, I want to express deep gratitude to Deacon Dennis Demes and to all of the teachers and staff of the Diaconate Program as well as to Msgr. Toups and all at St. Vincent De Paul Seminary where the program is carried out. There is no question in my mind that we have one of the very best programs of diaconate formation within the country. It is a great tribute to you three men who have completed this formation and are now well-equipped to take up the ministry.

 

Earlier this year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave a series of catecheses during his Wednesday audiences in Rome on the topic of the Sacraments. I believe his words have great significance for you, Frank, John and Wayne, on this occasion as you look to the future and carry out the office of deacon which will be entrusted to you. He said, "Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the Sacrament that enables a man to exercise the ministry which the Lord Jesus entrusted to the Apostles, to shepherd his flock, in the power of his spirit and according to his Heart. Tending Jesus’ flock not by the power of human strength or by one's own power, but by the Spirit’s and according to his Heart, the Heart of Jesus which is a heart of love. The priest, the bishop, the deacon must shepherd the Lord's flock with love. It is useless if it is not done with love. And in this sense, the ministers who are chosen and consecrated for the service extend Jesus's presence in time, if they do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, in God's name and with love."

 

My brothers, you are to shepherd God's flock according to the Heart of Jesus himself. You join me, as the Bishop, with all of my brother priests and deacons in an endeavor that is daily and lifelong and that is to take on the Heart of Jesus which is love. This is not an easy task nor is it one which is ever finished. However, the more effective your ministry as deacons is to become, it will only do so because the Heart of Jesus has become more and more your own. This Heart of Christ is to manifest itself, as it already has in your lives, within your families. As deacons, your service to the Church begins with the domestic Church of the family. How important this witness is today when family life is so much challenged and even threatened by many factors in society. Your manifestation of the Heart of Jesus is to be made within your workplace and in your community. Through ordination today, you become a public person within the Church and within society. Whatever you do is a manifestation of your faith and of your desire to serve. The world is longing for the witness of faith and you will be that witness in a vivid manner. Obviously, you are to manifest the Heart of Jesus to the Church in the parish and ministry to which you will be assigned. As a deacon, that manifestation will be especially evident in service to God's people, especially the poor and vulnerable.

 

Taking on the Heart of Jesus comes about through a real relationship with Him. This relationship is built upon prayer which must become more and more the root and foundation of your lives. Only by knowing the love of Jesus for you personally are you able to make that love real to others. While you will not always be assisting formally at the altar, the frequent and even daily celebration of the Eucharist draws you deeper into the Heart of Jesus. Obviously, the Liturgy of the Hours will assist you in forming a rhythm to your life which centers on prayer. As the Pope reminds us, the power of your ministry does not come through human strength but through the power of the Spirit based on prayer.

 

In just a few minutes, we will call upon all of the saints to assist you in the ministry of the diaconate in which you are to be ordained. We are reminded that the community of the Church includes the saints and that all of our lives are a journey to God's kingdom which is our ultimate goal. Holiness is the fundamental call to each and every one of us, not just ordained ministers. I'm sure the wives of all the deacons present here this morning will attest to that! I can hear them rightly saying, "we are the saints for putting up with our husbands!" However, ordained ministers have a special obligation to inspire others to holiness by taking on the Heart of Jesus. My brothers, as we celebrate your call to the diaconate this morning, we celebrate even more fundamentally your call to holiness and implore the saints to remind us of this fundamental vocation to which they were faithful in their lives.

 

Three of the Saints that we will call upon in the litany were deacons – Stephen, Lawrence and Francis of Assisi. Each of them was a powerful reminder to their communities of the Heart of Jesus Christ and of their taking on His heart in themselves. St. Stephen, as we just read in the Acts of the Apostles, was one of the first of the deacons within the Christian community. He was also the first Christian to shed his blood for the Heart of Christ. What a wonderful example Stephen gives us of taking the Heart of Christ to himself as he dies forgiving those who executed him. St. Lawrence was another deacon who shed his blood for the Heart of Christ. He gives us a vivid example of service to the poor and needy. Tradition has it that he was asked to bring the wealth of the Church to the Emperor and brought before the Emperor the sick, poor, vulnerable and homeless exclaiming, "These are the treasures of the Church!" Certainly, this was the manifestation of the Heart of Christ which led to Lawrence’s martyrdom. Finally, St. Francis of Assisi was well known for his love of the poor and for his simplicity of life. The virtues of his life are certainly manifest in the example of Pope Francis today. Much of the attraction of Pope Francis is due to his assimilation of the simplicity of St. Francis. I believe the most powerful words of St. Francis were, "Preach always and, if necessary, use words." Our example of living the Heart of Christ is always the most powerful preaching we can do.

 

You have great models in these deacon saints. You are called to the same holiness of life as they were. You are also called to the vocation of the diaconate as they were. Always grow in the Heart and love of Jesus Christ and you will know what the meaning of your vocation is all about. He will never let you down.

 

Again, it is a joy for me to be with all of you this morning. We are reminded of our call to holiness with which these men to be ordained will assist us. Let us all take on more the Heart of Christ to know the joy he wants us to experience.

 

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
September 6, 2014