This week’s first reading is the passage from Acts where the first Deacons were chosen. As the Christian community grew, the apostles found they needed to add faithful men to service the needs of the community so the apostles could focus on preaching and prayer.
As I reflect on my own ordination, the thing that for me best explains the role of the deacons in the church today is held in the admonition I received from Archbishop Hanus immediately after we were ordained. As I knelt before him, he handed me the book of the gospels that we now use for Mass. It is these four sentences that continue to best define what it means to be a deacon. He said, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach."
As a deacon, I am a herald of the Gospel, which calls me to read the Gospel reading at Mass and occasionally preach. But it is the next four instructions that most completely define what it means to be a deacon, namely: read, believe, teach, practice.
First to read, to study and reflect on the Word of God on a regular basis. The foundation of our faith is found in the scriptures, and it is simply not possible for any of us to live out our faith without a good understanding of what Christ is calling us to. Secondly, we need to believe in what we hear from the Word. To believe it is an action verb. It takes effort on our part. It also requires continuing formation. The fundamentals of our faith are consistent, yet how we understand them and live them out in our lives, requires continued study and reflection.
Teaching others can happen formally in homilies, bulletin reflections, and Generations of Faith. But more often than not, it happens in the simple one on one interactions of daily life. And lastly, there is the call to practice what we believe and have taught. This is the point where our faith becomes action. We have in our parish a peace and justice committee, serving the needs of the poor, the immigrant, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and others. While service is a particular call for deacons, it is also a call Jesus gives us all. I would invite you to join us and see where Jesus is calling you to serve.
- Deacon Phil Paladino