Today’s reflection is for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
Last week we learned that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls us each by name, to serve him and the world in a particular way as a single person, a married person, as a Consecrated Religious, or to Holy Orders. This calling is our vocation, from the Latin vocare. Today we are introduced to my patron saint, Saint Stephen, and six others known collectively in Greek as “the diaconoi,” or as we call them today in English, Deacons.
On the second Sunday of Easter, just a few weeks ago, we saw a beautiful image of the Church. We heard, “All who believed would sell their possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s needs.” (Acts 2:44-45). Here we are just three weeks later and there are already issues in the Church! The Church is growing by the thousands and there seems to be some complaining about how the Church’s resources are being distributed. The “Hellenists” or the Greek-speaking Jews, were upset because the Hebrew widows were getting more food than they were! From the very beginning, there were struggles in the Church—and it has always been so, right through to today.
The Church in every generation is called to grow in holiness, as individuals and as a body. There is always room for improvement as we journey through this desert. The Church’s struggles today are different from its struggles then, but the answer is still the same—God calls his faithful to serve and to meet the needs of its people. The fact that we are live streaming this Mass is one example of how the faithful’s needs are being met. I just saw in the Modesto Bee, that in response to social distancing many parishes in the diocese are doing drive up confession and even adoration! I love it! The Church meeting the needs of its people. It always has and it always will. Of this I am confident.
In 1965 at the Second Vatican Council, to meet its peoples’ needs, the Catholic Church re-instituted the Sacred Order that we heard about today, the Permanent Diaconate. The Apostles in today’s readings respond to a need in the church and call forth the Order of Deacons. They called for “seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom” from among the disciples and “laid hands on them” to ordain them to ministry. For a short history of the Diaconate, click here.
Many saints of the Church were deacons, my Patron Saint, Stephen, the first Martyr of the Church, also St. Francis of Assisi, St. Philip, who if you recall in Acts chapter 8 baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch and then preached the good news all the way to Caesarea. Permanent deacons faded away in the church for centuries before Vatican II brought them back. Of course, all priests are deacons, though not permanent. They are ordained transitional deacons as they journey toward priestly ordination.
My brothers and sisters, God is still calling reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom to serve his people. The permanent diaconate is a beautify ministry, where men of God, who are called first to the vocation of Holy Matrimony to serve their wife and the world, are duly called to Holy Orders to serve the Bishop and the people of God. The United States is seeing an explosion of men called by God to serve his people. Upwards of 15,000 are already serving in the U.S., and God willing, the Diocese of Stockton will have seven more come September, myself among them.
The word “diakonoi” literally means, “those who serve.” The Church needs holy men today more than ever. She needs young prayerful, holy men willing to serve as altar servers, and readers, and ministers of communion. She needs men of character, strength and prayer to serve as priests. And she needs reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom; men of substance, and strength, with a heart for God and for their family; for their bishop, and for their church community. The church needs moral men, good men, holy men, who are courageous enough to stand up and serve.
From the Diocesan of Stockton website, “The Deacon stands in the midst of the Church as Christ, the servant of all. By this unique expression of holy orders, Christ calls some men, and the Church ordains deacons to be consecrated expressions of service and, in a particular way, to assist bishops and priests to carry out their own unique ministerial priesthood. While deacons are not called to priesthood, they are ordained to a ministry of service that enriches the Church.”
The Marines aren’t the only ones looking for a few good men, our Diocese is too. If you are a man of God, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit, I want to encourage you to look into the permanent diaconate by contacting your diocesan office. If you are in the Diocese of Stockton, click here to learn more. Ask for Sister Wanda, and tell her Stephen sent you! God bless you.