Today we celebrate the birthday of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary; and, such an occasion is certainly a fitting one to observe other significant milestones in the lives of our deacons.
Today, while we say a “Happy Birthday” to Mary, we also wish many of our deacons a “Happy Anniversary”. Hopefully, you have not forgotten the day your were ordained deacons – any more than you could forget your wedding day. In either case, I do hope your wives will remind you.
It was through the Blessed Mother that the Word of God came to us. Word was made flesh in her virginal womb – and thus God made his dwelling among us. The ordained ministry of deacons – a ministry which is primarily described above all as a ministry of Charity – exists also to make Christ visible in our world today.
As we celebrate these jubilees, we give God thanks for all that he has done for you – but also for all that he has done through you. Of course, as the great John Paul II reminded us during the Jubilee Year of 2000, such occasions are not only times to give thanks but also times for some introspection. In other words, jubilees also afford us the opportunity to seek and perhaps even to give forgiveness. The ability to seek and give forgiveness, or perhaps, better said, the humility to seek and give forgiveness, is at the heart of a strong and enduring marriage. This same humility has to be the heart of any ecclesial ministry, especially a ministry described as diakonia, service. So today we give thanks but also in humility we ask forgiveness for any time we have gotten in the way of God’s desire to use us for his greater glory and the salvation of his people.
St Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
“To be conformed to the image of his Son…” This, I believe, is a very succinct – and very accurate – definition of Christian spiritually in general and a deacon’s spiritually in particular. Discipleship means walking with Jesus; but it also means becoming like Jesus, the Jesus who came to serve.
The sacraments we receive are received precisely for this reason – to conform us to Jesus. In Baptism the Holy Spirit grafts us, as it were, like a branch to the vine which is Christ. The Eucharist and all the other sacraments, including that of Matrimony and Holy Orders, are about our growing assimilation to Christ so that our conduct will be even more conformed to the mind of Jesus Christ.
John Paul II said once: “Christ is the supreme teacher. He is the revealer and the one revealed.” And then he adds that our discipleship is “not just learning what he taught but learning him”. And, on this the birthday of Mary, we acknowledge there is no better teacher than Mary. Among all creatures, no one knows Christ better than Mary. The last recorded words of Mary in the Scriptures present her in the role of teacher. At the wedding feast of Cana, she told the servants: “Do what ever he tells you”.
The Second Vatican Council reminds us: Mary is the Mother of the Church. She is Model of the Church. This means the Church is more perfectly the Church the more perfectly she resembles Mary. As Mary trusted in God and his plan for her, we too must trust in God’s plan for us; as Mary obeyed with an unqualified “Yes” to God’s will, our obedience must also always be a “Yes” without reservation; and as Mary taught, we too must teach fearlessly and faithfully so that those whom we serve may also learn Jesus.
Our prayer today is that Mary intercede for all of us and especially for our jubilarians so that the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have received may lead us to proclaim in word and in deed the full truth of Christ so that the world might believe.