Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blest Are Those Called to be Servants

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.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pentecost 2013 - Are We Muzzling the Spirit?

During this past week, I had the privilege (once again) of teaching for and attending the annual Spring Enrichment Program offered by our diocese for catechetical and pastoral leaders.  This effort - now celebrating its fortieth year - offers the opporunity to hear from nationally known and local speakers and presenters on a variety of topics affecting our daily ministry in the diocese.
This year we had the good fortune to have as our keynote speaker Rev. Anthony Gittins, a renowned professor, lecturer and author who spoke to us about the Holy Spirit and asked how we were allowing the Spirit to work in our lives in this time and place.  One of the probing questions he asked of us was whether or not we were "muzzling" the Holy Spirit.
As we are about the celebrate the Feast of Pentecost again this year, we are reminded of that first Pentecost when the disciples of Jesus, hidden from the world through fear, were energized and fortified by the Holy Spirit to go forth to preach the message of Jesus to the world.  Because of their response to the Spirit, we are here in 2013 ready again to proclaim that Jesus has risen and has sent into our hearts the Holy Spirit who will guide and strengthen us.  But the question still remains:  Are we at least some of the time "muzzling" the Holy Spirit?
When we place our own needs before those of others (who may have far greater needs than we), are we muzzling the Spirit?  When our personal agendas conflict with the message that Jesus has asked us to bring to the world, we are muzzling the Spirit.  When those in leadership (either clerical or lay) are more concerned with the perks of their office or place than with being the servants that Jesus has called us to be, we are muzzling the Spirit.
We are always in need of a new Pentecost.  Just over fifty years ago one such "Pentecost" took place when the world's bishops gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council to address not a heresy but the position of the Church in the world at that time.  Guided by the prophetic leadership of Blessed John XXIII, the Council broke new ground in a variety of areas: liturgy, relations with other Christians and those of other religions, etc.  The true and lasting effects of this momentous occasion in our Church are yet to be completely fulfilled.  Is it because we are again muzzling the Spirit?
I believe we are seeing the potential of a new Pentecost in our time as I look at how our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, is looking at the Church and what it should be doing at this time in history.  The simple way the Pope lives his own life is an inspiration to all of us to find whether we can live our lives in the same manner.  His call for a "poor Church," a Church that will always put the needs of the poor and marginalized in our society first and foremost before the pomp and trappings that often accompany power, is a call to all of us again to be seen as servants as Jesus was.
We are coming to the end of another Easter season as we celebrate Pentecost.  We are supposed to be an "Easter people" with a belief in what the resurrection of Jesus has meant to the world.  At a recent meeting, I heard words proclaimed concerning the meaning of the resurrection in our world today (written by Patricia Datchuck Sanchez and Rafael Sanchez Alonzo) and the final paragraph of the presentation is timely:  What does the resurrection have to say to the world?  Nothing, unless this great gift of God finds its voice in us.  Everything, if we will only dare to live and speak its message:  Love!  Life!  Hope!
We can only speak this message through the power of the Holy Spirit.  May we be a part of a new Pentecost and bring the message of love, life, and hope to the world.  May you have a blessed Pentecost!