“Let the message of Christ find a home in you” - Mass for Renewal of Diaconal Promises

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > “Let the message of Christ find a home in you” - Mass for Renewal of Diaconal Promises

Today we acknowledge the ministry of deacon in the Church, particularly the Church here in Tasmania. Nick, Michael and Mick you have responded to the call to serve as deacons within the Church. This Mass today offers a moment when you can ponder your calling. You can become aware once again of the movements of grace within you that led you to take this path of service to God and to God’s people. It is always good to remember our first love. It is always good to renew our desire to live the calling that has been given us.

Today, especially through the renewal of diaconal promises you embrace with fresh zeal your desire to serve God as a deacon. In this you turn to the Lord who called you and implore his grace upon you and your ministry.

The vocation of the deacon in the Church, as you know, is an ancient one, having its origin in the New Testament as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

In Christian history there have been a number of illustrious saints and holy men who have been deacons. The example of these deacons provide an inspiration to you today. We look to the saints as sources of encouragement and we seek their intercession for our ministry.

In Apostolic times it was a deacon, Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr. We also read of the preaching exploits of Phillip. 

The testimony of St Clement of Rome around the year 95 attests that deacons were integral part of the ministry of the Church in Rome. He mentions that their number is seven, following the number chosen by the Apostles.

Today we have chosen the renewal of Diaconal Promises to be linked to the Syrian deacon of the fourth century, St Ephraem, whose feast day is June 9.

He is acknowledged particularly as a teacher and a poet. The focus of his life and ministry revolved around being a fearless defender of the faith, especially the divinity of Christ, during the time of the Arian crisis. He attended the Council of Nicaea from which came the Nicaean Creed. He saw his mission as preaching the faith of the Council of Nicaea. As a preacher he called the people to embrace the true faith, and not fall into heresy advocated by the Arians.
We possess a number of his sermons which espouse the teaching of the Church. He is the only deacon who is acknowledged as a Doctor of the Church.

In the first reading today, St Paul says, “Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home in you”. This is clearly what Ephraem allowed to happen to him. We always need to return to Christ. We always need to listen to the teaching of Christ. We are always mere servants of Christ. We have no other life but Christ.

Having embraced the message of Christ and letting it fashion and form his spirit, then he preached this faith to the people. As St Paul says, “Teach each other and advise each other in all wisdom.”

Today, as deacons, I charge you to teach and advise your brethren in the faith, inspired by the faith that animates your life. Above all proclaim Jesus Christ and call people to enter into a living relationship with him.

We still possess 72 of his hymns, often adapting popular tunes and providing words full of sound Catholic doctrine. This shows his evangelical initiative. We often have to ask ourselves: how can be best communicate the faith?

Ephraem found a way, an effective way. He can inspire us to be creative in fostering the faith of the people. 

He lived an ascetic life, inspired by the monastic tradition, and was also known for his service to the poor and needy especially in times of famine. Thus, he is a worthy model for all deacons.

There is a prayer composed by St Ephraem which has special appropriateness for today:

Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of laziness, meddling, self-importance and idle talk.

Instead, grace me, Your servant, with the spirit of modesty, humility, patience, and love.

Indeed, my Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults,

And not condemn my brothers and sisters, for You are blessed unto
ages of ages. Amen.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday 6 June, 2020