HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Mass for the Ordination to the Diaconate at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary, May 20, 2022, 10 a.m.

Rev. Fr. Paolo Benetton, our seminary rector, team of seminary formators, lay collaborators, all beloved in Christ.

Diakonia in Greek is commonly translated as service.  We are ordaining our brother Florencio Unida to the temporary diaconate.  But it does not mean that he will serve temporarily.  It means that from now on, his life will be a life of service to God and His people. As followers of Christ, we draw life’s meaning by following the will of God and serving Him.   Without Christ, our lives are meaningless and empty, in search of something we don’t exactly know.  In the absence of something substantial, our lives are full of vanity, tantamount to chasing the wind, a waste of time and energy.

The first reading from the book of Numbers speaks of instruction of God to Moses concerning the role of the tribe of Levi in the community.  This is all about delegation.  To be effective in the discharge of duties in the Church, we need to learn how to delegate.  This is to ensure that tasks are distributed, and other people are given the opportunity to participate in the administration of the community.  In delegating the tasks what is being presupposed is trust on the part of those in authority and trustworthiness on the part of those who are delegated.

When we are called to participate in the work of salvation, our song shall be the responsorial psalm, “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” This is a song of gladness coming from a grateful heart.  We can only be grateful when the events of our lives, our personal history, has been enlightened by the word of God. When this happens, all the events of our lives, including painful ones, become a blessing. When this happens, we can speak about God’s love from experience. Then we become witnesses of the Good News.

The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the choosing of the deacons in the New Testament which is a demonstration that the Apostles prioritized prayer and the ministry of the word.  In other words, the administration of material goods is at the service of the preaching of the Word of God.

Proclamation of God’s Word is our priority. This is our mission. This is where we find meaning in our lives. The famous Jewish Psychologist Victor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” believed that we human beings are motivated by the desire to find life’s meaning. He argued that life can have meaning even in the worst of circumstances, and that motivation for living comes from finding that meaning. He also believed that embedded in the hearts of each one of us is the search for life’s meaning.

As followers of the Lord, we are not searching for life’s meaning.  It is being revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ who became poor that we may become rich, who was lost that we may be found, who died on the cross that we may live with Him forever.  On the last supper, he washed the feet of His apostles.  In today’s Gospel, He told His apostles that He came not to be served but to serve.  As followers of our Lord, our life’s meaning is in our service to others with His strength.

As ministers of the Church, we are called to share the blessings of what it means to live a meaningful Christian life.    The term minister comes from the Latin term minus which means “less.” St. John the Baptist captured the essence of what it means to be a minister when he said, “Christ must increase, and I must decrease.” To be able to serve in a way that is pleasing to God, we must be diminished.   The gift of celibacy that Rev. Florencio is embracing is his way of serving the Lord.  This gift is a blessing for him and for the community that he will serve.  Unique to his vocation, celibacy is his way of being diminished and emptying himself that he may be filled with the Holy Spirit.

The moment, we increase in our service to God, we carry with us a heavy weight.  Without our being aware of it, we live in illusion of grandeur, and it is our ego that is being bloated.  Egoism and vanity go together.  They are the essential ingredients of pride which is the sin of the devil.

Let us be careful with the limelight, because we live in a big city.  Acting like celebrities is tantamount to stealing the glory of God. Let us be careful with bloated ego, because it leads only to both entitlement and our own downfall.  Entitlement is the enemy of authentic service to God and His people.  Let us prick our bloated ego with a double-edged sword, that is, the word of God. Then we can travel light, and we can serve better.  The word of God must be our nourishment.  If we are not nourished by the word of God, we will be nourished by worldliness.  Pope Francis talks about spiritual worldliness and pagan clerics.  He is referring to the ministers of the Church with bloated ego who have become the center of the world they have created.  In that world Christ is absent.

Let us remain in His love. Let us be alert and attentive. Let us discern the ways of the Lord.  Let us always be dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for it is only when we have the Spirit of Christ that we can serve with gladness and joy in our hearts. Amen. (File Photo of RCAM-AOC)


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