At the ordination of deacons, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome (November 9, 2013)
Beloved sons about to be ordained deacons,
Beloved brothers and sisters,
1. We are about to end the Year of Faith that Benedict XVI started. Pope Francis will end the year in a solemn Mass on the Feast of Christ the King. This circumstance brings to light a particular aspect of this ordination as deacons of thirty faithful of Opus Dei.
In effect, we are joined together in a wonderful show of faith. Each one of these men, after having freely answered the call of our Lord, is on the verge of becoming a minister of Christ, a servant of all. The vocation is divine, like the calling of Jeremiah, as we heard in the first reading: “Before I formed you in the womb of your mother, I knew you,” the Lord says, “and be- fore you were born, I made you holy, and made you a prophet for all the nations of the earth” (Jer 1:5).
You, my beloved sons, have answered the call personally made to each one of you. Adsum! Here I am! you said. And then, I asked you: “Do you wish to be consecrated in the service of the Church, through the laying on of hands with the gift of the Holy Spirit?” Your voices forcefully echoed in the ears of everybody here: “Volo!” Yes, I do!
As you well know, the imposition of the hands of the Bishop— together with the words of the prayers of consecration—makes up the fundamental sign of the sacrament of Orders in its various de- grees. The imposition of hands, which Christ the Eternal High Priest makes at the same time, has a precise meaning: Jesus takes pos- session of each one of you, of your entire being, to make you into liv- ing instruments of his sanctifying action. I understand your joy and your emotion at the moment of be- coming ministers of Jesus Christ. To be sure, you are about to receive a great gift. Already at Baptism and Confirmation each Christian be- comes, by the action of the Holy Spirit, another Christ, an adopted son of our Father God, and—as Saint Josemaría puts it—not only another Christ, but Christ himself, ipse Christus. Today, with the diaconal ordination, and in a little while with the priestly ordination, you will be changed, by the power of the sacrament, into Christ him- self. You will share his priesthood in a new way.
Commenting on this ancient gesture of the imposition of hands, Benedict XVI taught that, not only does Christ take possession of his ordained ministers, but he also leads them, one by one, saying to them: “My hands are protecting you. My heart is protecting you. I am holding you in the palm of my hands and it is precisely here that you will experience the intensity of my love. Remain in the palm of my hands and give yourself to me.”
We can see before us a new and solemn commitment of love. You will be faithful, with the help of Our Lord, if you keep and nourish a spirit of prayer, faithfully fulfilling your duty to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, trying to conform your life to the life of Jesus Christ, whose Body, from this point on, you will be able to give to the faithful in Holy Communion. We can under- stand why Saint Josemaría used to say: Lord, why do you love me so much?
2. Through the imposition of hands and the prayers of the con- secration, the liturgical signs show us the duties that you will fulfill. In the first place, you put on the liturgical garments of a deacon: the stole, which is placed on your left shoulder, along with the dalmatic. These are signs that deacons are at the service of all the faithful. It reminds us of what Saint Paul says in the second reading: “For as I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain more . . . To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all” (1 Cor 9:19-22).
And so, serve your sisters and brothers and all souls with joy, humility, and charity as you carry out the duties of your ministry: preach- ing the Gospel, giving Communion, leading Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so that the faithful can adore Jesus Christ, and carrying out all the works of charity that might be entrusted to you.
After vesting you, I will give you the book of the Gospel, so that you can preach the Good News to everybody. When the Bishop en- trusts you with the Gospel, he says: “Always believe what you preach, teach the faith that you have learned, and live what you teach.” The Liturgy directs these words to the new deacons, but it also directs them personally to every Christian. In short, every faithful should believe in the Word of God, live it with deeds, and teach it to others. And because Christ is the living Word of God, who has become man for our salvation, Saint Josemaría often reminded us: “I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.”
The text of the Gospel that we just heard invites us to serve: the first miraculous catch of fish, that ended with Our Lord sending Peter and the other Apostles—as well as you and me to be fishers of men (Lk 5:10). This phrase calls to mind some words that our Holy Father Francis said in a recent audience: “Christ invites all to ‘go out’ and en- counter others, he sends us, he asks us to move in order to spread the joy of the Gospel! Once again let us ask ourselves: are we missionaries by our words, and especially by our Christian life, by our witness? Or are we Christians closed in our hearts and in our churches, sacristy Christians? Are we Christians in name only, who live like pagans? We must ask ourselves these questions, which are not a rebuke. I ask myself as well: what kind of Christian am I, is my witness true?”
3. And finally, the Bishop will give you the embrace of peace. As well as showing that you are admitted into the Order of Deacons, this act says much more: it stands for the love that the whole people of God has for each one of you, and how much she is filled with gratitude for all you do to serve her. And so, let us all pray more for the ministers of the Church. Let us pray in a special way for the Roman Pontiff, who Christians have for ages given the first title of Servos servórum Dei, the Servant of the servants of God.
Beloved sons and daughters, let us aid our newly ordained ministers of the Lord with our prayer and mortification. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to send many priestly vocations to the Church. As Saint Josemaría thought about this need, he asked Our Lord “to make our urge to serve grow, because messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci (Mt 9:37); because the workers are few, and the harvest is great: our apostolic work is a sea without shores, and there are very few souls in the world who truly wish to serve!”
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Josemaría, and all the Saints to intercede for our brothers here before us. Let us also go to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The Church dedicates this month to them. “They have such power with God!”
Naturally, I also ask you to pray for the holiness of seminarians and priests in the whole world.
Before ending, I would like to give my very warmest congratulations to the parents, sisters and brothers of the new deacons, as well as to their other relatives and friends. And as we enter the last days of the year of Faith, let us ask God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for a big gift, that each one of us grows in faith, hope, charity, and piety in the way we carry out our Christian duties.
Praised be Jesus Christ!