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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 23, 2018
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Christ the King Church in Little Rock on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. It is based on the following readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 100; Philippians 2:6-11; and Mark 10:35-45.
Jon, as you well know, your full name — Jonathan — means “gift of God” and I must say, your parents named you well. You are truly a gift of God — as is everyone present here today — but you have been blessed with a name that is a constant reminder of that fact.
So today, as you are ordained to the diaconate, I thought it might be good to look at this gift-of-God business a little more closely because there’s more to it than just being a nice name with a nice meaning.
First of all, your very existence is a gift of God. As is growing up in a wonderful, faith-filled family with great parents and great brothers and sisters, and growing up in a great parish with inspiring priests like Msgr. Malone.
You’ve already received other sacraments, but those were all for your own benefit. Baptism, reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation were all gifts of God to benefit you personally. Holy orders, however, is for the benefit of others. You become a gift of God for them.
Plus all the many God-given talents you have, good health, deep faith, the educational opportunities you have received. You are a gift of God and you have received many gifts from God, much to be thankful for.
But all these gifts are for a purpose that is bigger than yourself. God gave them to you to equip you to be a gift of God for others, hence your vocation to the priesthood, the final step toward which you are taking today.
In a few minutes God will give you the gift of the sacrament of holy orders: today the order of the diaconate and in about a year the order of the priesthood. You’ve already received other sacraments, but those were all for your own benefit. Baptism, reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation were all gifts of God to benefit you personally. Holy orders, however, is for the benefit of others. You become a gift of God for them.
This is why I am so pleased that you chose this Gospel reading for your ordination. James and John have not had seven years of seminary formation, so they are still thinking the way worldly people think. They are motivated by ambition for a position of power and authority, to sit at Jesus’ right and at his left when he comes in his glory.
Notice, Jesus has just told them that he was going to be condemned, tortured and executed — the sacrificial love which is his glory — and they don’t get it. So Jesus challenges their worldly attitude, reminding them that in his kingdom whoever wishes to be great must make himself a servant — a "diakonos," the origin of our word “deacon”— and whoever wishes to be first must make himself a slave of all.
“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was the greatest gift of God ever. And you are called to be a gift of God like that: free of personal ambition, desiring only to serve others with self-sacrificing love.
We see the same thing in the other readings you have chosen for your ordination Mass. In the Philippians hymn, our second reading, Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” and “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” And in our first reading, the call of Jeremiah, God says: “to whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” He is God’s servant and will do what God asks of him.
And so, Jonathan, by choosing these readings you proclaim that the same is true for you. You are called to be a gift of God, to embrace a life lived for others, to be a Jonathan not only in name, but also in fact!