Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of Chad Miciak
[Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 100; 2Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7; Matthew 20:25-28]
This evening the Church in Edmonton gathers – a few members in person, most remotely – in a spirit of joy as we formally choose our brother Chad for ordination to diaconal ministry. Our joy springs first of all from this great sign of the Lord’s fidelity to his promise to raise up servant leaders for his people. It arises as well from the great faith we see manifested in you, Chad, as you place all your trust and hope in the Lord and respond to his call with the entirety of your life. Please know that you can count on the support and prayers of myself, the priests, deacons, religious, and lay faithful of the local Church as you undertake this needed ministry.
Our celebration unfolds tonight within very narrow parameters. Due to the public health imperative and the restrictions flowing from it, only a few people have been allowed into this Church. Just saying that strikes a very discordant note. Keeping people out of mass is counterintuitive. Although we understand why this is temporarily necessary, nevertheless allowing in only a few does not accord with either the essence of the Church or the nature of her liturgy.
Neither is it in keeping with the ministry for which you are about to be ordained, Chad. Here is where we may discern what the Lord is saying to all of us, and to you in particular, precisely through these limitations. While it may be for a time necessary to allow only a few persons into a church building, there can be no justification for limiting the number of people you embrace with your diaconal heart. This is because, as a deacon, you represent Christ the Servant. As the Lord himself says in this evening’s Gospel passage, he came to serve and give his life in service “for many”. That word “many” is not limited but comprehensive in scope. Our Lord did not allow only a few people into his sacred heart. Neither, therefore, may you be restrictive, Chad, in your ministerial concern.
What this will mean for you concretely in your daily ministry is that you must stand always ready to serve those to whom the Lord sends you. Your example here is St. Philip, who was among the Church’s very first deacons. The passage from Acts tells how he was led by God to people in need of his ministry. He was first directed by an angel to travel the road between Jerusalem and Gaza to find an Ethiopian eunuch in need of instruction and Baptism. Then, we are told, he was snatched away by the Holy Spirit to Azotus, where he proclaimed the Gospel. The point here is that it in both cases it was the Lord who directed Philip’s ministry, not Philip himself. You ought not to expect, Chad, to be mysteriously transported from one place to another – ordination grounds you here in the Archdiocese – but you should anticipate that the Lord will guide your service by placing you, like Philip, on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza.
In recent days these two cities have become symbolic of warring opposites, precisely because the “road” linking them is populated by many who have not yet surrendered to the power of the Cross to bring down barriers and effect reconciliation. Seen in this light, the road between Jerusalem and Gaza exists in countless places beyond the Middle East. It is found wherever people are separated from one another by bitterness, hatred, misunderstanding and prejudice. It is located even within homes where families are divided. This road even passes through our own hearts, whenever they are torn between love of the Lord and that of the world. In these places, too, and wherever it spans spaces marked by separation, we shall find on that road people needing to hear and accept instruction in the Gospel that alone can lead to peace.
As a deacon, Chad, your place is on that road, so you should expect the Lord to place you there. Be always ready to share the Gospel with people who have yet to find their way to God and one another. Stand alert to their cries and heal their wounds quickly with the balm of mercy. Among the “many” for whom Christ gave his life in ransom, untold numbers today are on “the road from Jerusalem to Gaza”. Travel the road with them so that by your diaconal service it will be for them no longer a way that separates but a path to healing and reconciliation.
Have full trust in the Lord as you take up this task. With deep gratitude, rely on the truth, taught by St. Paul, that the Lord is at work in the weak clay vessel that is every minister of the Gospel. The limitations placed on attendance at this mass evoke the many restrictions imposed on our ability by human weakness. Yet the limit of human weakness is no restriction on divine power; it is, rather, by the Lord’s own mysterious design, its necessary condition. So, as you now present yourself for ordination, give the Lord your weakness and be ready to witness the wonderful things he will do through your ministry to serve the people for whom he gave his life.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
May 17th, 2021