The Diaconal Ordination of Tavis Reginald Goski—Holy Redeemer Church, Kanata, ON
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year “C”)-December 20, 2015
THE FAMILY: HOME OF LOVE AND MERCY
[Texts: Micah 5.2–5a [Psalm 80]; Hebrews 10.5–10; Luke 1.39–44]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“The Bible says the most beautiful thing that God created was the family.” Pope Francis spontaneously said this at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. This was after families from around the world told their stories of war and strife.
“In families there are always difficulties,” Francis said, “...Only love is able to overcome them.”
The pope added, “God’s love is so overflowing that…it had to be poured out of him.” “A family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love.”
The spotlight the Church placed on the family through two Synods of Bishops has led us in the Church of Ottawa to choose as our theme for this Pastoral Year, “The family, home of love and mercy,” with the scriptural motto “Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36).
In the Scriptures today, we see Mary immediately after her vocation, when she was called to be the Mother of the Saviour of the World. She exercises a “diaconal” ministry by going to serve her aging kinswoman Elizabeth who, after years of barrenness, had conceived John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner. Mary shows that she is the “Mother of Mercy,” modelling for us the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
The gospel and our pastoral year theme evoke one goal: to help our parishioners in their families to experience love and, where love has been wounded in their families, God’s healing and renewing mercy.
Tavis is being ordained a deacon in the early days of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I pray, Tavis that mercy will imbue your ministry, as you serve God and his Church, conveying his love to all you meet.
Pope Francis asks us not only to look for mercy, but also to show mercy. This sacred time is for mending bridges, putting things right, and welcoming the estranged.
Mercy is also about giving aid to those who need it. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy provide practical ways in which we should commit to helping others.
The readings we have just heard enrich the occasion of this ordination rite.
The prophet Micah lived in the eighth and seventh centuries BC. Micah’s powerful utterances are credited with converting King Hezekiah. This led to the reform of the southern kingdom of Judah and the renewal of its worship and life.
False prophets in Micah’s day ingratiated themselves with the rich. Unlike them, Micah did not court popularity. He was zealous for justice. He preached God’s judgement on sinfulness as well as God’s favour toward those who repented of injustice.
Micah summarized God’s expectations this way, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (6.8).
The book of Micah has been compared to a preacher’s file of sermons. Oracles of doom are mingled with words of encouragement. Some scholars describe the middle section of the book (chapters 3–5) as “false leaders denounced, a righteous king promised.”
Today’s verses contrast Israelite kings of the past with the glorious leader God has in mind, “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”
Kings born in Jerusalem had failed to meet the ideal. God promised to go back to Bethlehem, where King David was born, to find a messiah worthy of his lineage.
The New Testament describes God’s fulfillment of the ancient promises about his messiah with words like “lowly,” “humble,” and “hidden.”
In the last days of the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, God sent angelic messages to an otherwise inconsequential couple, Mary and Joseph, announcing the virginal conception of Jesus, who would inherit forever the throne of his ancestor David. With faith, they agreed to participate in God’s design for humanity’s salvation.
In Luke’s gospel, to illustrate that “nothing will be impossible with God,” the angel Gabriel pointed to the conception of a child by Mary’s kinswoman, Elizabeth, despite her old age. This was the prelude to today’s gospel of the “Visitation” in which Mary, “in haste,” made the approximately four-day, 130-kilometre journey from Nazareth to “a Judean town in the hill country” to visit her relative.
Christians have made Elizabeth’s praise of Mary their own through the ages: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is blessed, above all, for her humble faith, which is a model for all believers: “Blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord!”
In humility, Mary declared her praise of God in the Magnificat, which follows Elizabeth’s greetings in today’s gospel. During your seminary formation, Tavis, you have prayed Mary’s prayer yourself every evening at Vespers. My brother Tavis, imbibe Mary’s simplicity and humility, and stay close to your spiritual mother all your life long.
Beloved brothers and sisters: since this our son, who is your relative and friend, is now to be advanced to the Order of deacons, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which he is about to be raised.
Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, he will help the bishop and his priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity, showing himself to be a servant to all. As a minister of the altar he will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful.
Furthermore, it will be his duty, at the Bishop’s direction, to exhort believers and unbelievers alike and to instruct them in holy doctrine. He will preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless Marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and conduct funeral rites.
Consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes down to us from the Apostles and bound more closely to the service of the altar, he will perform works of charity in the name of the Bishop or the pastor. With the help of God, he is to go about all these duties in such a way that you will recognize him as a disciple of him who came not to be served, but to serve.
Now, dear son, you are being raised to the Order of the Diaconate. The Lord has set an example that just as he has done, you also should do.
As a deacon, that is, as a minister of Jesus Christ, who came among his people as one who served, do the will of God from the heart: serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord. Since no one can serve two masters, look upon all defilement and avarice as serving false gods.
Since by your own free choice, you present yourself for the Order of the Diaconate, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit, as were once those chosen by the Apostles for the ministry of charity.
You will exercise your ministry committed to the celibate state: know that celibacy is both a sign of pastoral charity and an inspiration to it, as well as a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. Compelled by the sincere love of Christ the Lord and embracing this state with total dedication, you will cling to Christ more easily with an undivided heart. You will free yourself more completely for the service of God and man, and minister more effectively in the work of spiritual rebirth.
Firmly rooted and grounded in faith, you are to show yourself chaste and beyond reproach before God and man, as is proper for a minister of Christ and of a steward of God’s mysteries. Never allow yourself to be turned away from the hope offered by the Gospel. Now you are not only a hearer of this Gospel but also its minister. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express by your actions the word of God which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God. Then on the last day, when you go out to meet the Lord, you will be able to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Photos: Christopher Choquette