A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible privilege of preaching at my daughter's wedding. In my homily I referred to a beautiful song that the children's choir sings at Most Holy Trinity Parish: Love, Love, Jesus is Love, God's greatest gift is the gift of Love. All creation sings together praising God for Love. Today we celebrate anew that Love. In this Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate Love. So much Love for us that God sent us a Savior in the person of His Son. Becoming flesh and dwelling among us; Jesus is love! Teaching, preaching and healing; Jesus is love! Emptying Himself on dying for us on the Cross, stretching out His arms between Heaven & Earth; Jesus is Love! Rising from the dead and opening for us the gates of Heaven; Jesus is Love! And today, in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of His Body & Blood, Jesus is Love!
Today we hear St. Paul telling us that he received what was handed on to him, the celebration of the Eucharist as 1st occurred at the Last Super on that Holy Thursday night. And that same Eucharist is handed on to us today. At every Mass, we have the consecration of those simple gifts of bread and wine as they become the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We understand that this is not a new sacrifice or re-crucifying Jesus; no! By the grace of God, time and space is suspended and every Mass is a celebration of that one Sacrifice on the Cross, re-presented in an un-bloody manner. All of us, in the proper state of grace, can participate in the worthy reception of Jesus, really present, really His Body and Blood!
We must recall that worthy reception means being free of mortal sin, therefore it is expected that we will make a good confession before receiving Jesus if mortal sin exists. We also want to participate fully in the celebration of the Mass in which we are to receive Jesus an we also remember before Communion to forgive those who have hurt us. When we go to Communion we should remember that we receive, not take, therefore we should receive the Sacred Host reverently in a true spirit of thanksgiving. And the same from the Chalice, if the Chalice is available to us. Now that we have received Jesus in Holy Communion, now what? Do we leave Mass and become what we believe; do we become what we received? For us, nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we must be ambassadors of Christ in the community, the workplace, out there, among those who perhaps do not believe or simply do not know what they are missing. And we must witnesses of great joy because, as the song tells us, I received the living God and my heart is full of Joy!
Today is also a day of great joy for the Permanent Deacons around the world and the four of us who serve you in this wonderful parish of St. Jane de Chantal and St. Michael's Mission. This weekend is the celebration of the Jubilee for Deacons. Just this morning, Permanent Deacons from across the world gathered with Pope Francis for Holy Mass in St. Peter's Square. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy our Holy Father wished to remind the faithful that the Deacon is the minister of mercy, the minister of charity, the minister of service. Deacons are indeed ordained ministers of Holy Mother Church and receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon ordination. While they assist at Mass, where most of the faithful see us in action, it is the Deacon's charge to minister all week long in nursing homes, hospice care, food banks, jails and prisons, juvenile detention facilities, hospitals, in the streets, among the poor and broken-hearted and in so many other ways. Our presence here on Sundays at the altar of the Lord sacramentalizes the service shared with the people of God all week long. Here in the parish, in addition to seeing us at Mass, your Deacons prepare couples for marriage, assist those seeking annulments, help families prepare for baptism, lead prayer groups, Bible studies and offer spiritual direction. The Deacon serves as an icon of Christ the Servant, who came to serve and not be served. We honor the service of Deacon Frans LaBranche, ordained in 1981, Deacon Don Bourgeois, ordained in 1989, Deacon Mark Coudrain, ordained in 2006 and yours truly, ordained in 2008. We also remember those Deacons who, as members of this parish, went on to service elsewhere, Deacons Ed Kelly, Steve Ferran, Norbert Billiot and Kenny Uhlich.
It is a joy for all of us to serve each of you as Permanent Deacons and our prayer that perhaps someone listening to this today may be called to the Diaconate. Please feel free to contact any one of us for answers, prayers, encouragement and support. May we also remember to serve and never be served and in the Eucharist, receive Him who we give back to you in our charity, mercy and service!
Whether alone or with their wives, dressed in clerical collars or T-shirts because of the afternoon heat, they began sharing experiences of formation, homiletics training and ministry assignments even before the formal program began.
The Jubilee of Deacons was to conclude May 29 with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square.
In the informal conversations and the sharing afterward, the women were active participants. Many of them had accompanied their husbands to formation classes, and all of them are directly impacted by their husbands' ministries.
Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, said deacons are born in families, most of them fall in love and start families before discerning a vocation to the diaconate, and they often are called upon to minister to other families.
Deacon Keating insisted that a deacon who has had proper formation in prayer, theology and the sacraments "will become a better husband," his wife "will actually fall more in love" because he will be converted to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater availability to others.
However, he said, that availability is not so much about time and activity, as it is about "being" a deacon. It's about "relationships, not ministries," Deacon Keating insisted.
Kimberly Norman, whose husband, James, is a deacon at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica in Chicago, said Deacon Keating was right. Speaking of her husband, she said: "Yes, he is a better man. Yes, he is a better husband." The preparation and ministry "has strengthened our marriage."
Deacon Norman said his wife has changed, too, and is a particularly good example and reminder to him to make more time for prayer.
Deacon Anthony Gooley of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, and a lecturer in theology at the Broken Bay Institute, told the crowd that deacons were instituted in the early Christian community to minister to people whose particular needs were not being met by the disciples.
They have the same mission today to reach unserved or underserved populations, he said. In fact, their potential contribution to the new evangelization "is limited only by imagination and by the will of those who engage in placements and pastoral planning in the dioceses."
"Too often a deacon is left to work out the details of his own pastoral ministry," Deacon Gooley said, and arrangements are made with "a handshake deal with the parish priest."
His remarks led to a ripple of agreement around the basilica.
Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a popular blogger and multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, focused on the ministry of deacons in the workplace. Many of the almost 45,000 permanent deacons in the world continue to work in secular jobs in to support their families even after ordination.
But a deacon is a deacon no matter where he is, Deacon Kandra said. He is called by the church to be on the "front line," wherever he is.
"The deacon is called to be a witness to compassion," helping those who are hungry or poor, whether materially or spiritually. "They might work in the cubicle next to yours," he said.
As a witness to the dignity of work, Deacon Kandra said, the deacon is called to stand up for just wages and decent working conditions, but also to improve the workplace environment by "quieting gossip," listening to grievances, speaking up for those without a voice.
"Some of the most important missionary activity in the world today may begin in unlikely places, not in a jungle or desert of some far-off country, but around the water cooler, or on a bus, or over coffee in the company cafeteria," he said.
"What began on the altar on Sunday," Deacon Kandra said, "continues in the world and in the workplace on Monday."