On 8th December 2019, the second Sunday of Advent, Bishop John Sherrington presided at the Diaconate Ordination Mass of Br Ritche Podador. The Mass took place at Our Lady Queen of Apostles, Heston.
In his homily, Bishop John shared the following words:
My dear brother, Ritche,
Today we rejoice in your ordination to the diaconate both in the Order and as a step on your journey towards priesthood. It is a moment to pause and consider the promises you make as a deacon and the service to which you are called: the proclamation of the Word, service at the altar and the service of charity.
As a Vocationist, your service as a deacon will be inspired by the charism of your founder, Blessed Justin Russolillo, known as Blessed Justin of the Holy Trinity.
St Justin Martyr, born around 100 AD in modern day Nablus on the West Bank, was the foremost apologist and second century defender of the Christian faith. He sought ways to explain the faith to pagans and spoke of the ‘seeds of Christianity’ being found in other religions. He is an apt intercessor as you seek to explain the Divine Word to others in your preaching and teaching as a deacon.
The name of Blessed Justin of the Holy Trinity reminds us that God is revealed as the God who is Love, three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who live in relationships of love building communion. This is a model for your service as a deacon. Love is always patient and kind, two virtues which are important in the work of helping others to attend to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and discern the voice of God who echoes in their hearts.
An ordination in Advent reminds us that this is the season of waiting in hope for the coming of Christ. We look back in gratitude for the mystery of the Incarnation and our adoption as children of God; we look forward to Christ’s coming again, and we seek to see each day Christ leaping into the world and our hearts. Advent speaks of the anticipation and attention to God’s coming into the lives of those to whom you minister.
In the gospel, we hear the powerful image of John the Baptist who is always pointing towards Christ, as St John tells us at the side of the Sea of Galilee, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’. It is your calling to point towards Christ who baptises with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
As a Vocationist, inflame the hearts of young people with the message of Christ so that you can help them to search for God in their lives, form them, instruct them in the faith, and especially reach out to the poorest of the young people who feel called by God to religious life and priesthood. Always help them to discover God’s plan for their lives. This theme is close to the heart of Pope Francis and the subject of the synod on youth, faith, and vocational discernment. In discovering the call of God, St John Henry Newman helps us with his well-known words:
‘God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next...’ and later, ‘Therefore, I will trust him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him... He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, he knows what he is about.’
Reflect on your own call as a deacon and that of the service you will bring to others so that they may know the gifts of God, discover the call to some definite service, and recognise that there is a mystery in God’s choice and calling. Part of this mystery is service in the celibate state as a sign that your first love is Jesus Christ who is the meaning of your life.
As a deacon you will proclaim the word of God in season and out of season. As we hear in the letter of St Paul to the Romans, ‘Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God’. This word is not something of the past, but rather a two-edged sword to enlighten the minds and hearts today of those who walk in darkness, to strengthen those who have weak knees and shaky legs, to proclaim the word of truth in the midst of images and shadows. Many people fail to understand that this is the only word that can satisfy their restless hearts. Your ministry as a deacon is to find ways of allowing it to echo in their hearts.
The first reading presents a vision of a kingdom of peace built on justice and nurtured by love. As you serve at the altar, at the mysteries of the Eucharist, you will be close to the Body and Blood of Christ which you will give to those who hunger and thirst. The deacon as a minister of the Chalice is close to the suffering of Christ and his people. Stay close to them in your poverty of celibacy. Remember that you are ordained in the purple vestments of Advent which are also a sign of the suffering of Christ as he awaits the resurrection. As you invite people to extend the sign of peace to one another in the Mass, remember that you are called to be a peacemaker and bridge builder between people. The cross of Christ will be a sign of the power of Christ over sickness, suffering, evil and death.
Always rejoice in the service to which God has called you. May he continue to pour out his blessings upon you.