Yesterday I had the privilege of serving as Master of Ceremonies at the ordination of six new deacons for the Diocese of Albany, New York. Two of these men, with God's help, will go on to ordination to the priesthood next year. The remaining four permanent deacons will serve in various parishes throughout our diocese. I have also had the privilege of being their homiletics instructor during their years of formation. I feel that they will do well at breaking open the word for the people of God wherever they are serving.
Being a part of this wonderful ceremony reminded me of one of my previous posts done in early 2012 when I wrote about service. The word diakonia from which comes the word for deacon meant "service" in Greek. It has been the word applied to the first seven men chosen in the Acts of the Apostles to serve at table so that the apostles could devote themselves to the preaching of the word. One of those first "deacons" was the great Stephen - the first to be martyred for Christianity. Of couse these chosen ones would go on to do other things besides serving at table but the note of service was always to be uppermost in their lives.
I would like to quote from that earlier post when I said: All of us have received a call from God. This call is not just for Christians but for people of good will in all faith traditions - Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. All of us are called to work toward a more peaceful world in which we can all live together in harmony. We begin this work in our own homes, within our own families and in our own communities.
This call to service which these newly ordained deacons have received is a call to serve the word, the liturgy and charity. All of us in the clerical state remain as deacons called to service whether we be pope, bishop, priest or deacon. The same is true for those in lay ministry as well because the primary purpose of such ministry is to serve the people of God as Jesus did who "came not to be served but to serve." It is a good reminder to us that when those of us in ministry become more concerned with our titles and the special recognition that we believe should be ours then we are in trouble. We begin to lose sight of the fact that we were called to serve others and that should be our most important concern.
I pray for God's blessing on these new deacons and all those throughout our country and world that will answer the call to public ministry. Only with the support of our prayers can they hope to succeed in their ministry. Let me rephrase the prayer I used to close my previous post:
Dear Jesus, look upon them, your disciples of today, and bless their efforts as they minister to your people. Help them always be mindful that they are called to serve others and not to be served themselves. Give them the strength to carry out your work in a world so much in need of your love and grace. Help them to see where you live today so that they may spend their time with you until that day when they are with you in the joy of eternal life. Amen.