On Sunday Pope Francis celebrated a special jubilee for deacons, telling them that a good servant is one who forgets themselves, letting go of their own plans and humbly placing their lives at the disposal of those to whom they are called to minister.
One of the first steps in becoming “a good and faithful” servant is that “we are asked to be available. A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would,” the Pope said May 29.
“One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day,” he said, adding that one who serves “is not a slave to his own agenda,” but rather, is “ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises.”
A true servant must train themselves every day to be generous with their lives and their time, realizing that “the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others,” he said.
“Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.”
Francis spoke to the thousands of deacons and their families present in St. Peter’s Square for a special Mass in honor of the Jubilee for Deacons, which is part of the Pope’s wider Jubilee of Mercy.
The mini-jubilee was marked by three days of events beginning with a Friday, May 29, meeting with the deacons and their families during which the topic of deacons as an “Image of Mercy for the Promotion of the New Evangelization” was discussed.
Saturday, May 28, the deacons, divided into different language groups, made a pilgrimage through the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. They later visited other parishes deemed “Jubilee churches” around Rome, participating in Eucharistic Adoration and receiving Confession before calling it a night.
Francis’ Mass marked the end of the official celebrations for the deacons. In his homily, he said that the terms “apostle” and “servant” can never be separated.
“They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus,” he said, noting that Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve,” was the first one to show us this.
“A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master,” Francis observed, adding that if we want to follow Jesus, we must first imitate him, becoming a servant to others.
This, he said, “is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.”
Pope Francis pointed to the figure of the centurion in the day’s Gospel passage from Luke, who asks Jesus to heal his dying servant.
Jesus, he said, is amazed by the centurion’s declaration of faith in saying that “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof,” and “only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
Given the centurion’s troubles, he could have been anxious and demanding, using his authority to get what he wanted, the Pope said. Instead, “he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss.”
Without even realizing it, the centurion acted like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart,” Francis said, explaining that God, who is love, is always ready to serve us and meet our needs.
“This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.”
Francis then pointed to the image of the sick servant himself, who serves as a reflection of each one of us.
“Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve,” he said, but cautioned that before serving others, we must be healed ourselves first.
“To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened,” he said, and encouraged the deacons to ask for the grace to be healed during their daily prayers.
“In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.”