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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: March 31, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Blessed John Newman University Parish in Jonesboro on Sunday, March 31, 2019.
Every year we have a special Mass to give me the opportunity to thank you deacons and wives for your faithful service year in and year out — in your parishes and in the other apostolates to which I have assigned you.
I thank you in my own name and in the name of the people you serve. You serve so generously and without looking for special recognition, which is what makes your service so heartfelt and inspiring. You make a real difference in the lives of your parishioners — I hope you know this, because I know that sometimes people take you for granted.
But of course, in addition to giving me an opportunity to thank you, this Mass is also for the purpose of giving you the opportunity to renew your commitment as a deacon — sort of like priests do at the Chrism Mass, putting you back in touch with the Lord's call in your life and your generous response to that call.
Faithful diaconal service also involves embracing the cross. Otherwise the love you invest in your ministry would not be sacrificial. I'm sure many of you can list a series of moments in ministry when your share in the cross of Jesus Christ became very real. Times when your efforts were misunderstood, misconstrued or even made fun of.
A response that involved setting out on a journey with the Lord that would change your life, your marriage and your family forever. When we respond to the Lord's invitation to share in his ministry, our hearts are filled with new meaning and purpose. We dream of the good we will be able to do and how our lives spent in his service can have such a positive impact on the lives of so many. And all of this is true: You've experienced it!
However, faithful diaconal service also involves embracing the cross. Otherwise the love you invest in your ministry would not be sacrificial. I'm sure many of you can list a series of moments in ministry when your share in the cross of Jesus Christ became very real. Times when your efforts were misunderstood, misconstrued or even made fun of.
Times when you preached a truth that angered some of the congregation. Moments when you and your pastor didn't see eye to eye. Times when you had to deal with some unpleasantness or tragedy in your own family, and needed to allow others to minister to you as you bore a cross that was personal rather than ministerial. And of course these crosses can become very discouraging if we lose sight of the Lord and his presence right there by our side.
So I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that Jesus often works most powerfully through us in our moments of weakness and our times of trouble — that was certainly the case in his life. That's the mystery of the cross. Jesus didn't just say, "Follow me," he said, "Take up your cross and follow me" ... and it is by so doing that we have a share in his victory.
And therefore, it is by so doing that our efforts will bear lasting fruit. Sometimes fruit that we will never live to see. Just like you and I owe a debt of gratitude to those who served us in the past, but never lived to see the kind of person we would later become.
So I thank you for your service. I pray for you especially when you face challenges in your ministry and in your personal life. And together we lift up our prayers for our retired deacons and wives, and especially for those who have already gone to their eternal reward. May God give them — and you — the reward of your goodness!