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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 24, 2017
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Christ the King Church in Little Rock on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
As I said last Sunday at our celebration of Msgr. Malone's 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, this is a wonderful week for our diocese and especially for Christ the King Parish.
Forty years of priesthood that has borne much fruit, including many vocations from this parish — among whom are Stephen Elser, Joseph DeOrbegozo and Patrick Friend — three of the seven young men to be ordained to the diaconate this year in preparation for ordination to the priesthood next year.
And then this Saturday, I will be ordaining five men to the priesthood right here at Christ the King, including Stephen Hart, who is also from this parish. Our seminarians attend all of these ordinations, which gives me the opportunity to speak to various aspects of ministry over the course of this series of ordination homilies. And since Patrick, Joseph and Stephen have chosen Acts 6:1-7 as their second reading, that's what I'd like to speak about today.
(Celibate chastity) means much more than just sexual abstinence. Chastity requires us to be pure not only in our overt actions, but also in our thoughts and in our words, pure in the way we deal with others — no deceit, no mixed messages. Pure and sincere in the desires of our own heart. And of course this requires death to self, which is the foundation of a life lived for others.
A little less than 2,000 years ago, the early Church discovered that they had a problem. People were falling through the cracks. Newcomers were being neglected. The widows of Greek-speaking Christians in the Jerusalem community were being neglected by the Aramaic-speaking Christians "in the daily distribution" and this lead to a restructuring of the Church to better serve the community's needs.
There were two language groups and the seven men selected to be the first deacons were chosen for the express purpose of bridging a gap that had arisen in the life of the Church. They were to be the glue within the community.
As we will see, however, as time progressed and the needs of the Church evolved, the role of these first deacons evolved to meet these changing needs. Now they were not just waiting on tables. Two of their number, Stephen and Phillip, were soon presented as preachers of the Good News as active ministers of the Word and the deacon Stephen, of course, became the first martyr.
Joseph, Patrick and Stephen, you stand before us today as men called like those first deacons 2,000 years ago: to serve the Lord as a minister of charity, as a minister of the altar and a minister of the word.
You have learned Spanish because the Lord has called you to bridge a gap that has arisen in the life of our Church. You have studied theology in order to be well equipped to proclaim the Good News of Jesus' redemptive death and resurrection, and to explain what this means for us in our daily lives.
And you have been formed in the liturgy of the Church in order to equip you to assist at the Eucharist, administer baptism, bless marriages, bring viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites. And because you will be ordained to the priesthood a year from now, God willing, today you will also publicly promise to embrace celibate chastity for the rest of your life as a "sign of your dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the service of God and man."
In all of this, you are making a profoundly counter-cultural commitment. A preferential concern for the poor and marginalized modeled on that of Jesus. A life dedicated to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God in a society that often gives lip-service to Jesus but then turns around and does the opposite.
And nothing could be more counter-cultural or a more powerful sign in today's society than your commitment to celibate chastity. This, means much more than just sexual abstinence. Chastity requires us to be pure not only in our overt actions, but also in our thoughts and in our words, pure in the way we deal with others — no deceit, no mixed messages. Pure and sincere in the desires of our own heart. And of course this requires death to self, which is the foundation of a life lived for others.
Stephen, Patrick and Joseph, your faithful response to the Lord's call is an inspiration to all of us. I am proud to welcome you into the ranks of the ordained clergy of the Diocese of Little Rock. And we all assure you of our prayers as you place yourself and your future fully in the hands of the Lord today.