Diaconate Ordination of Mario Jacobo and Taryn Whittington

Published: May 28, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Thursday, May 28, 2015. It is based on the following readings: Acts 6:1-7; Ephesians 6:10-20; and John 15:1-8.

Bishop Taylor

The word "seminary" comes from a Latin word meaning "seedbed" or "greenhouse." In this case, a place where the seed of a vocation is cultivated: Allowed to germinate; its growing tendrils be supported and trained and pruned.

Sort of like we do with tomato plants. We water them, put down fertilizer, prop the plant up when necessary and pinch off the sucker branches that have no blossoms in order to maximize the tomato production of the branches that do have blossoms.

And Taryn and Mario, you've still got one more year of spiritual cultivation to go at that greenhouse we call St. Meinrad. But not just one more year of growth and pruning in the vineyard of the Lord. His vineyard is the world and I can assure you from personal experience, his pruning is ongoing.

But united to him, you will bear fruit abundantly. Or more accurately, he will bear abundant fruit through you, through your ministry.

Which is why I am so glad you chose Jesus' discourse about the vine and the branches as the Gospel reading for your ordination to the diaconate. Both of you were raised in deeply Christian homes and the seed of faith in Jesus was planted in you early on.

Mario: You had the blessing of a very supportive mother who relied on the Lord amid the many challenges she faced raising you as a single parent. She knew she was going to have to do double duty. She worked hard all her life to help her kids get ahead, but she also knew that she wasn't going to be able to do this alone. So with great trust in God's providence, she turned to Jesus, her Savior.

She found strength in him and in her parish to keep moving forward despite many challenges. And Mario, I'm so pleased that your pastor from Atlanta, Father Joseph Shaute, is here with us today. He had such an important role in your own vocation as well as the life of your family.

Taryn: You on the other hand, had the blessing of being raised in a solid Christian home in which both parents were present, and the even greater blessing of having a father who is the pastor of a pentecostal church. Taryn, it is a special grace from God that you have a father who can share with you a wealth of pastoral experience as you begin your own life of public ministry in the vineyard of the Lord.

In both of your cases, your childhood home was your first seminary, the place where that seed of faith began to grow and develop. And not just there, also in the churches of your childhood and early adulthood. Over these years, the Lord pruned you and led you down pathways in your journey of faith with him that no one could have predicted, bringing you eventually to the choicest part of his vineyard: the Diocese of Little Rock. And I guarantee that this pruning will continue in all the years of ordained ministry that lie ahead for you.

But notice, you are not the seed. Jesus is. He has been growing within you all this time. You belong to him, are part of him, a member of the mystical body of Christ living and active in the world today. But he is the head of the Church, he is the vine and you are branches, as am I and everyone else here. He is the life-giving sap that feeds us, without which we die, and so cut off from him you can bear no fruit. But united to him, you will bear fruit abundantly. Or more accurately, he will bear abundant fruit through you, through your ministry.

This is part of what we find in the remarkable second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians that you chose for today. It is remarkable because you — and St. Paul — recognize that we are presently engaged in a battle against evil, and that as ordained ministers you will be on the front line of this cosmic struggle.

Hatred did its worst on Good Friday, but Jesus poured himself out in self-sacrificing love and thereby broke the power of sin and death. Satan can do incredible damage — as we see in the news every day and as you will see in the lives of some of your parishioners — but Satan cannot defeat love.

So "put on the armor of God" — the armor of self-sacrificing love — "so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil ... your loins girded in truth" in all you say and do, "clothed with righteousness as a breastplate ... and take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Pretty appropriate for two men about to take up a ministry of preaching the word of God as ordained deacons.