At the diaconal ordination of two faithful of the Prelature, Church of St. Josemaría, Rome (February 21, 2009)
At the diaconal ordination of
Two faithful of the Prelature,
Parish of St. Josemaría
My dear brothers and sisters.
My dear sons about to be ordained deacons.
1. The words of the responsorial psalm are still fresh in our minds: How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! (Ps 84:1). We know that God’s presence is not tied to a particular place; we are in the times that Jesus predicted to the Samaritan woman: But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him (Jn 4:23). At the same time, we cannot forget that the Most Holy Humanity of Jesus is the true temple in which the fullness of the divinity dwells (cf. Jn 2:21; Col 2:9). After our Lord’s Ascension to heaven, we can find God in the Holy Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and above all in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, which really and truly contains the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. In addition, through sanctifying grace, we ourselves are made into temples of God, a dwelling place for the Most Holy Trinity.
With these considerations I want to reaffirm that we can make our own the words of the psalm, since we can always remain in God’s presence and serve him. I would like to recall in this regard some words of St. Josemaría that he addressed to all Christians: “In the most varied activities of our day, in all situations, we must act as God’s servants, realizing that he is with us, that we are his children. We must be aware of the divine roots set deep in our life and act accordingly.”
In the second reading of this Eucharist, the apostle Paul offers us a summary of the virtues we should put into practice to act as true disciples of our Lord. From his Roman prison he exhorted the Ephesians, and he exhorts all of us, to behave in a way that is worthy of the vocation we have received: with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:2-3). We should meditate frequently on these words; they are a practical guide for our daily Christian conduct and our habitual examination of conscience. Thus our Lord will enter more deeply into our hearts. As the founder of Opus Dei wrote: “If we let Christ reign in our soul, we will not become authoritarian. Rather we will serve everyone.”
2. Sacred ministers are especially called to tasks of service in the Church. Through the sacrament of Orders, in its diverse grades, they are made sharers in Christ’s mission, to serve mankind in imitation of the Divine Master. For Jesus, as we heard in the Gospel, came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28).
We are participating in the ceremony of diaconal ordination for two faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei. For many years, in striving to respond to the divine call to sanctity in ordinary life, they have served with joy the people God placed at their side: relatives, friends, colleagues… So apostolate is nothing new to them; from today on, however, they will exercise it in a new way: as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).
To you, my sons, the Church is conferring the task of helping the bishop and his priests in their specific ministry: in the preaching of God’s word, in the celebration of the Eucharist and the administration of the other sacraments, in the service of charity.
I would like to consider briefly one aspect of the diaconal ministry: liturgical service. Put all your effort into treating our Lord well in the Eucharist. During the upcoming months of preparation for priestly ordination, together with the preaching of the word of God, this will be your principal task. You will have the opportunity to distribute Communion, to expose the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the faithful and impart Eucharistic Benediction. Perhaps you will have the duty of bringing Holy Viaticum to someone gravely ill. In each of these circumstances, think of the goodness of Jesus, who places himself in your hands with total confidence. Meditate frequently on the teachings of St. Josemaría, who was a priest deeply in love with the Eucharist.
There comes to mind the emotion with which, shortly after receiving diaconal ordination, he touched the Sacred Host for the first time with trembling hands. This tremor was an exterior sign of love and respect for our Lord, which he wanted to express in each of his gestures. “Lord, never let me grow accustomed to having you in my hands!” was the prayer that sprang forth from his heart at that moment. Let us too ask today, for all deacons, for all priests, for all the faithful, that we may never become insensitive to the holy, divine realities that our Lord has entrusted to us, in a special way, in the Eucharist.
3. In these days of winter, snow has fallen heavily in many parts of the northern hemisphere, covering highways and mountain paths. Something similar can happen in a Christian’s spiritual life. This is how St. Josemaría expressed it: “There are times of spring and summer, but there are also winters, days without sun and nights bereft of moonlight. We can’t afford to let our friendship with Jesus depend on our moods, on our ups and downs. To do so would imply selfishness and laziness, and is certainly incompatible with love.”
What should we do when circumstances like these become present in our lives? The founder of Opus Dei frequently spoke about those tall poles, usually painted red, that one sees in the mountains along the side of roads and paths to mark the way when everything is covered with snow. He applied this to the interior life: “Therefore, in times of wind and snow, a few solid practices of piety, which are not sentimental but firmly rooted and adjusted to one’s special circumstances, will serve as the red posts always marking out the way for us, until the time comes when our Lord decides to make the sun shine again. Then the snows melt and our hearts beat fast once more, burning with a fire that never really went out. It was merely hidden in the embers, beneath the ashes produced by a time of trial, or by our own poor efforts or lack of sacrifice.”
The time of Lent, now fast approaching, invites us to strengthen our Christian commitment. In his recent message for Lent, our Holy Father Benedict XVI reminded us of the need for assiduous prayer, generous mortification, constant deeds of charity, as necessary requisites for receiving the abundant grace of Easter. This year he considers in a special way fasting, which frees so many spiritual energies of the soul, frequently imprisoned because of an at times exaggerated care for one’s body.
First of all, the Supreme Pontiff puts us on guard against a minimalistic view of fasting. “In our own day,” he explains, “fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly brings benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a ‘therapy’ to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”
Then, recalling Christ’s fast in the desert before beginning his public life, the Pope summed up the principal characteristics of this Lenten practice: “mortifying our selfishness and opening our heart to love for God and neighbor;” “conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping one to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord;” “opening our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live.” Therefore, he concluded: “Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother.”
Before ending, I remind you of the duty that we all have to pray for the Pope and those who assist him in governing the Church. Let us help him with our prayer and mortification that we will strive to make more intense during Lent. Let us also pray for the bishops, for Cardinal Vallini, the Vicar of His Holiness, for the priests and deacons of the whole world; for priestly and religious vocations; and for the sanctity of the entire Christian people. Let us place these intentions in the hands of our Lady, Mother of the Church, who well knows the needs of her children.