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Homily of His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect


Basilica of St Peter

Sunday, 20 February 2000



Praised be Jesus Christ

1. With the imposition of hands and the prayer of consecration the Lord will pour out the Holy Spirit upon the acolytes here present and consecrate them deacons. You will be permanent Deacons of the Church of God.

In the Church and in the world you are a sign and instrument of Christ who came, "not to be served but to serve".

You are responding to a stable and permanent vocation: it imprints a sign, a permanent and indelible mark that conforms forever you to Christ the Servant.

Until the final moments of your life you will be the sign of Christ the Servant. Obedient until death and to the death of the Cross for the salvation of all.

For this reason this moment is an hour of joy and hope for our Diocese and for the Universal Church that, from this altar, speaks with deep significance of the unity and catholicity of which Peter, through his successors, the Vicars of Christ, is supreme guarantee.

In this celebration the whole Church knows the consolation of seeing your vigour grow, seeing your faithfulness strengthened, and seeing your ability to serve increased. "The deacons are the servants of God and of Christ, not of men, nor calumny, nor double-dealing, nor love of money; they are chaste in all things, compassionate, zealous, leading according to the truth of the Lord who has made himself servant of all." (Ad Philipp., V,2)

2. We give thanks to the Father who fills us with His gifts and arouses in the midst of His people vocations in mature men who are conformed to Christ and place all their energy at the disposition of the Church.

This is a choral and joyous rendering of thanks which is shared by all of our Dioceses. First of all those responsible for formation, the respective parish priests, who were exemplary models. It is likewise shared by the families through their willing collaboration. Thanksgiving next to the many people who, by prayer and sacrifice, contribute every day to the welfare of the Church and to the growth of the vocations that shine in her as a service that harmoniously sings the uninterrupted poem of Redemption.

3. If there is such a thing as a Christian ambition, it lies in the desire to serve, so much so that at the highest point of the hierarchical scale is He who is the "Servus servorum Dei", the Servant of the servants of God!

The Deacon is called to exercise a threefold diakonia: that of the Word, that of the Eucharist, and that of the poor.

To the deacon pertains the duty of proclaiming the Gospel and helping the priest explain the Word of God. During the ordination ceremony the following is said to the Deacon: "Accipe Evangelium Christi, cuius praeco effectus es." (De Ordinatione, no. 238)

The Word of God, not our word! The Word that crosses, one could say "sacramentally", the lips of the sacred minister!

The Word of God that disturbs the false peace of many consciences, which cuts cleanly through every ambiguity and knows how to touch even the hardest hearts. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword". (Heb 4:12) The Word of God as it has always been proclaimed by the Church, not with personal interpretations given only to flatter the ears of the listeners. The Word of God without compromise, without accommodation, hesitation, fear or complex in front of the dominant culture.

It is not the Word of God that should be domesticated in order to reduce it to suit our comfort: it is us who should grow and help others to grow according to the Word. We never forget that we are not dealing with a mere - though authoritative - word; it is the Word. What respect then, what prayer, what sense of fear and love must be found in the depths of those who would make that Word resound and who must explain the meaning of it in the lives of every person and society.

4. We understand then that it cannot be the current culture that sets itself up as the criteria of understanding, rather it is the Word that must judge with strength, weigh up, perfect, and even change the value system of the contemporary culture.

It is the truth that judges events, not vice versa, as tragically so often happens. The Holy Father has said to the Church and to the world that one of the principal duties of the church is the diakonia of the truth.

Fear not that it is the Word of God that conditions the full realisation of man! On the contrary, it is the Word of God that is capable of overthrowing idols, prejudices, the lies of the world and of liberating man from the many forms of slavery to sin.

The Deacon is the herald of the Gospel, he is the administrator of eternal salvation, not of merely terrestrial goals; he is the prophet of a new world, not of an old and egotistical one; he is the bearer of message that throws its own light on the problems pressing on the earth but that does not close itself in its narrow horizons.

5. The Deacon is also the first co-worker of the Priest in the celebration of the Eucharist, or rather, of the great "mystery of the faith". He knows the honour and profound joy of being servers of the "Mysterium"!

To you is entrusted the Body and Blood of the Saviour in order that the faithful may nourish themselves from them and be strengthened. Always treat the holy mysteries with that interior adoration of mind and affection, with that thoughtful and humble external gravity, with that devotion of the spirit, that are definitive expressions of a soul that believes in and remains conscious of the high dignity of its own duties.

You must remember that what is pastorally more necessary is not the assimilation of liturgical gestures to those used in everyday life, but rather keeping alive in liturgical celebrations the radical "difference" of the sacred actions and the sacrificial banquet of the Eucharist – in which we personally and vitally meet our Redeemer – from all other forms of human friendship and cohabitation.

6. To the Deacon is then entrusted in a special way the ministry of charity that is at the origin of the institution of the deaconate.

When the Eucharist is – as it must be – placed decisively at the centre of the community, it not only forms the heart of each believer for communion with Christ, but also necessarily urges them to communion with their brothers.

Attention to the needs of others, noticing the pain and suffering of their brothers, the capacity of giving: these are the distinctive signs of the Lord’s disciple who nourishes himself on the Eucharistic Bread.

The Love of neighbour must not only be proclaimed: it must be practised. The Deacon must be charitable, agreeable, warm, kind. He must dedicate to others his interest, his time, the commitment of his life to the present form of what was called the service of the table. The Deacon, co-worker with the bishop and priests, must be, with them, the living and working expression of the charity of the Church that is simultaneously bread for the hungry, light and co-operation for social progress and development, word and action for justice. The Deacon is the privileged vehicle for the social teaching of the Church.

7. To be faithful to this triple diakonia, brothers, root yourselves ever more in the depths of the ecclesial mystery, in the heart of the Mystical Body, in the communion of saints; immerse yourselves in prayer so that your daily work will be dripping with prayer. In the midst of your everyday life be intellectually supported by a living metaphysical structure and refer always to the transcendent. Even the important social aspects of your duty cannot be lived as though you are workers in that sector. You live and act in that environment as deacons, in a dimension linked to the "Mysterium", in a dimension that draws lifeblood and dynamism from the sacramental and also looks to the final end, to collaboration in the global Church work of establishing all things in Christ.

8. As Deacons you are born from the Altar, in the heart of the eucharistic Sacrifice, you are born in prayer.

Allow me, then, to recommend to you in a special way, faithfulness to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is the unceasing prayer of the Church that is entrusted in a particular way to the sacred Ministers. Keep alive intense and affectionate dialogue with the Father, praying for yourselves and for the whole world.

Prayer helps you to climb above, to go beyond the din of the city and the worries of the day in order to purify your vision and your heart; the vision to see the world with the eyes of God and the heart to love your brothers with the heart of God.

9. In a few moments the petition of the Lord that the Holy Spirit who will "fortify with the seven gifts of his grace to faithfully fulfil the work of the ministry," will be poured out upon our brother ordinandi, will begin.

It is also the prayer of all you Deacons here present who complete your Jubilee.

The Virgin Mary, handmaid of the Lord, with her boundless petition obtains for all a new out pouring of the Holy Spirit because the work of the new evangelisation impetuously urges within us, in harmony with that "ignem veni mittere" that connotes the burning desire of the Redeemer.