(Editor’s note: Archbishop Gomez is on vacation. His column will return in the Aug. 12 edition. The following is adapted from his homily for the ordination of 48 new permanent deacons for the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, July 16.)
We all know that the name “deacon” indicates one who serves.
But all of us in our Christian lives are entrusted with a mission to serve our brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to take Jesus as our model and to imitate him by serving the Church and all mankind. However, those who are to be ordained to the permanent diaconate are called by God and set apart to a divinely instituted ministry of service in his Church. In ordination, Jesus welcomes these men to sacramental ministry in his Church — not as servants, but as friends. My prayer is that every man ordained to the permanent diaconate will enter deeply into this friendship with all his heart and all his soul. I pray that he will accept this beautiful gift of friendship and let it shape his identity as a deacon and let it set the program for his ministries. What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? Friendship with Jesus Christ means you must always be trying to know Jesus better and trying to conform yourselves more closely to his will. We do that through our prayer and our daily striving for holiness. We do that through reading sacred Scripture and through our participation in the Sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist and Confession. We do that through seeking God’s will in everything that happens to us in the course of our daily lives. As friends of Jesus, deacons have a sacred dignity and responsibility for his Church. They continue the mission of those first deacons we read about in the Acts of the Apostles — St. Stephen, St. Philip and the rest. They are co-workers, along with my brother bishops and priests, in my apostolic ministry in this great Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They are being called to something so great! God is calling them to participate in the mission of Jesus for the salvation of the world! For the salvation of souls! But in order to carry out that mission the deacons need to have a heart like the apostles and those first deacons. The deacon is called to a life of simple holiness and an attitude of humble service. By his ordination, the deacon is configured to the image of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself to come among us in the form of a servant. He is called to serve — in persona Christi Servi, “in the person of Christ the Servant.” The deacon must try to become, really and truly, “another Christ” for the men and women you serve. Through his service of love, the deacon will show his brothers and sisters how much God loves them. He will show them how God longs to touch each one of us personally with his love. How he longs to wash away our sins. To heal our wounds. To sanctify us and to make us holy. Christ became the servant of all. The deacon must make his mission the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is ordaining the deacon to bear fruits of love: “This I command you: to love.” As those early deacons did, I urge the deacons of this great Archdiocese to stay close to me as their Archbishop. And I will stay close to my deacons. Together, let us stand firm together as servants of God in this great Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I want to make my own the prayer that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI composed to teach all of us how to grow in our friendship with Jesus Christ. It is beautiful and I hope that it will inspire the new permanent deacons — and all of us — as we live out our Christian discipleship of loving service: Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life, not for myself, but in union with you, to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend. As we pray for one another this week, let us ask for the prayers of Our Blessed Mother Mary, who gave us a perfect model of discipleship and service to God’s will. May she help our new deacons — and all of us — to gain the grace we need to always serve our Lord Jesus Christ and our brothers and sisters in love. Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.