Bishop da Cunha’s homily to transitional deacons

Editor’s Note: The following is the full text of Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.’s homily delivered during the ordination of three transitional deacons for the Fall River Diocese on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River.

Dear Matthew, Juan Carlos and Daniel,

Today the Church of Fall River rejoices with you, welcomes you into order of deacons, celebrates with you and your families as we give thanks to God for having called you and brought you to this day.

I wish to thank the families of our ordinandi for giving their sons to the Church, for bringing them up close to God and the Church, for sharing their faith with them and for supporting them in their vocation.

We also want to thank you for having given your YES to the call from the Lord.

Your YES is not to honor or privilege, but to serve the Lord, to serve His Church and to serve all God’s people. This service should never be seen as a burden, but rather as a joy to be able to be at the service of the Lord. 

As we read in Psalm 100: “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful song. The Lord is God, He made us, we belong to Him, we are His people.”

You are here because God called you to life, life called you to serve, service calls you, you said here I am. 

1.    Among your duties as deacons is to be Minister of the Word.

We heard from the first reading: “The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.”

You are called to help the bishop and the priests in the ministry of the Word. In this ministry you always show to be servant of the Gospel. You are not only a hearer of the Gospel, but its minister. Your first duty is to be at the service of the Gospel.

During the rite of ordination I will hand you the Book of the Gospels as I say to you:

“Believe what you read; Teach what you believe; Practice what you teach.”

That is a challenge in itself, especially the comment to practice what you teach. Know that you will teach with your words, but even more with your actions.


2. To Serve at the Altar.

As servant of at the altar you will prepare for the celebration of the Sacrifice. You will distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood. You will be teacher the faith by word and example. You are to be servant of all. You will be leaders of prayers, but in order to be a leader of prayer you must be men of prayer.

In Pastoris Regis we read: “It is not possible to be a servant of others unless one is first a ‘servant of God.’ And one can only be a servant of God if one is a ‘man of God.’” 

Therefore you are to cling to Christ with an undivided heart.


3. Ministry of Charity.

As you embrace the ministry of charity, you care called to imitate Jesus. Wash the other people’s feet. As He has done, so you must do.

Pope Francis spoke to deacons recently and told them that “They were chosen by the Lord Jesus not to have a career, but to do this service.”

As deacons you “are to go about your duties in such a way that you will be recognized as a disciples of Him Who came not to be served but to serve” (Rite of Ordination).

Don’t be afraid to be human, to be imperfect, to be vulnerable. “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7).

Realize that you don't have all the answers, that you don’t know it all, that you don't have it all under control. Don't be afraid to recognize you need for God, for other people's help, for faith and for prayer. Stay humble and you will find out the people will love you and appreciate you more than if you present yourself above others, as if you were better than others. 

God called you not because you are better than others or holier than others, but because he found in your heart enough humility and generosity that He wanted to entrust to you this great gift of Sacred orders, not for yourselves, but to serve His people in a unique and special way. This gift of Sacred orders is given to you, but not only for you. It is entrusted to you to be at the service of others, so that you can use the grace of the Sacrament to bring others to the Lord; you can use it to console them in their sorrow, to rejoice and celebrate with them and help bring them always closer to God.

“Anyone among you who wishes to be first must be your servant. Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave … The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25-28).

“Serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord. Follow the example of the Lord in love, prayer, service, charity. May there abound in you every gospel virtue” (Rite of Ordination).

Therefore you need to:

• Be unfeigned in love;

• Have concern for the sick and poor;

• Carry an unassuming authority;

• Have the purity of innocence; and

• Always observe Spiritual discipline.

As deacons you will serve Jesus Christ, Who was known among His disciples as the One Who served others. Do the will of God generously.

One of the questions asked of you during the Rite of Ordination is: “Do you resolve to conform your life always to the example of Christ, of whose Body and Blood you are minister at the altar?”

So, conform your lives to the will of God, to His plan for you. What is His plan for you?

First, your sanctification and then the sanctification of others. In all that you do, make disciples of Jesus; work for your and their sanctification. This gift is given to you, but not for your self-aggrandizement; it is given to you to be used for the good of God's people.

“For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:5).

Salvation does not come from us, but “Salvation comes from our God, Who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever” (Rev. 7: 10, 12).

Like the men the Apostles chose for works of charity, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit.

“Firmly rooted and grounded in faith, you are to show yourselves chaste and beyond reproach before God and man, as is proper for the ministers of Christ and of the stewards of God’s mysteries. Never allow yourselves to be turned away from the hope offered by the Gospel. Now you are not only hearers of this Gospel, but also its ministers. Holding the mystery of faith with a clear conscience, express by your actions the word of God which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God. Then on the last day, when you go out to meet the Lord you will be able to hear him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter the joy of the Lord’” (Rite of Ordination).



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