Given for the Ordination of Phil Etuk, Jim McLean and Sam Mulira to the Permanent Diaconate, on 8th July 2023 at Westminster Cathedral.

Today is a day of joy for Phil, Jim and Sam, their families, their parishes and indeed for the whole Church. Scripture records that through the ages the Lord called those whom he wanted to follow him and to serve his people. They heard his voice and responded, as these three men have just done, saying 'Present', 'Here I am. We rejoice today because the Lord is still active among his people, calling them, keeping his promise to be with his Church. We rejoice because Sam, Phil and Jim hearing that that call that originates in God answered it, permitted it to enter into their hearts to take root and to grow.

Sam, Jim and Phil the ministry in which you will engage is the Lord's, it belongs to him. It is he who calls, decides and lays hands on those whom he wants to serve him in the ordained ministry.

Today the Church confirms the Lord's choice. The Diocese of Westminster is blessed in accepting you into the number of those who preach the Good News. We rejoice in the diversity of the Church in Westminster. And we declare with you we are the Lord's servants though as deacons you will be, as Pope Francis said, 'Guardians of Service in the Church'.

Our brothers have been preparing for this moment for some years through study, retreats, exams, discernment, prayer. They undertook these tasks while fulfilling other daily commitments which can never be undermined nor neglected. I am thinking of their family life. We express deep appreciation to the wives of these three men: to Mfon, Gillian and Rachel for your generous participation in this process and that of their families. The path to this day was undertaken with confidence not only because of their consent of the wives but because of their active support. We acknowledge and appreciate their contribution.

A Deacon is a wonderful addition to the life of any parish. Working alongside priests, catechists and other volunteers a parish is strengthened. Sam, Phil and Jim will be aware of the expectations, the opportunities and the work to be done. A Deacon though is not simply one who performs a function but is essentially an agent of God, a herald of the Gospel. Through their ministry, their words and activities they become channels by which of God and God's grace can reach his people.

The images of salt and light provided by the Gospel illustrate that in following Christ one has an impact that is meaningful. Our Deacons entrusted with preaching God's word will with His help enlighten those who hear them, give direction as a light does and bring hope and consolation to those who need it. In interaction with those with whom they work, through activity. Through their interaction with God's people, through their activity they will be able to inspire and influence, leave an impression, bring a flavour, like salt.

For the ordained person there are two parts, each of which we must be conscious, especially the one ordained. There is the part that is guaranteed by God. When a deacon baptises it is Jesus himself who is acting, in that moment he is an instrument, Christ is present in the deacon. When he administers the sacrament, it is guaranteed that what is offered is Christ himself. Through his ministry Christ is present.

Then there is another part, how he behaves, how he serves, how he advises, how he responds to need. In the Gospel of Luke we read of Zacchaues who climbed a tree. Reading the story carefully we see that the real reason why Zacchaues climbed a tree was not to see Jesus but to see what kind of a man he was. That is the question that people often ask of us priests, deacons and Bishops. What kind of a man is he. We act in the name of Jesus and the ordained can be sure that Christ acts through them. At the same time we allow ourselves to be transformed by his Word so that can think like Christ, shaping our lives after the pattern of Christ. St Paul says to all of us in ministry, lead a life worthy of your vocation.

A Deacon while committing himself to service also as we shall hear in the Examination of the Candidates commits himself to prayer that his calling will be sustained and nourished by God.

Pope St John Paul the Second once remarked that while concerned with the harvest of the Lord must never forget the Lord of the harvest. The deacon engaged as he is in service and activity, bringing relief, fostering charity knows that it is really the Lord's work he is doing. It may not always feel like that but it is.

It is in the countless things that take place in a parish the life of the Church is lived out. Ordination far from removing one from the people of a parish brings one closer to them, initiates another kind of relationship, that God's work will continue.

Sam, Phil and Jim in presenting themselves are displaying a great act of faith, love and generosity. We welcome you and thank you. It is the belief of God's people that God has called you to serve them. Sam, Phil and Jim, may you be the kind of deacon that God wants you to be.

Wherever you are, with your family, in the midst of the assembled people of God or having a quiet moment by yourselves may you be moved to make your own that prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, 'Teach us good Lord to serve you as you deserve'.