Editor's Note: The following is a copy of Bishop Morlino's Homily for the celebration of the Ordination to the Diaconate of Rev. Mr. Vincent Brewer and Rev. Mr. Garrett Kau, for the Diocese of Madison.
||This column is the bishop's communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
We know that the Holy Spirit hovers over this celebration tonight and that in just a few moments, the Holy Spirit is going to rush onto your souls and He's going to change you, Vince and Garrett, into the person of Jesus Christ, the servant. This will be a lifelong change at the deepest level of your soul and you will be very different when you go to sleep tonight, than you were when you woke up this morning. And if you had moments of nervousness about this today, they will disappear, as the Holy Spirit will take up residence at the deepest level of your soul, in a whole new way — and it really is a big deal!
In the Second Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:26-40), we heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah, and talking about Jesus, the suffering servant. Of course, the identity of the diaconate is all about being servant — servant of the Word, and servant of charity. It's a very interesting description that we have of the servanthood of Jesus, this description of the suffering servant.
A different kind of service
In our culture, we enjoy the service very much, of social workers; we couldn't do without them! But, it's very clear from the description of Jesus Christ the servant, that He was much, much more than a social worker, and that His service was of a very different quality from social work. Jesus' service was described as such, "like a lamb he was led to the slaughter, mute as a lamb before the shearer, he opened not his mouth (Acts 8:22-23, cf. Is 53:7-8)." And the next line, which really tells us what is being said, "in his humiliation, justice was denied him."
Being a servant, in the person of Jesus Christ the servant (you know well) is not a piece of cake; it means being vulnerable to the forces of evil in the world, because it's through vulnerable love that Jesus Christ conquers the forces of evil day-in and day-out. That is the service, the love, to which you are called.
"In his humiliation, justice was denied him. . ." If you think about it, it can't get much worse than that. But this isn't bad news, because through his suffering Jesus Christ saved the world. His suffering had the happiest ending of all happy endings. And so your servanthood, and mine, in Jesus Christ, is one that brings humiliation and the denial of justice to us, and yet there is no other final destiny of that humiliation and denial of justice than the Resurrection itself. So we are people of joy and of hope.
Called out of world and back
One doesn't have to look too far — just read the papers — to see how we, especially as Catholics, are daily humiliated and denied justice. The denial of our freedom of religion and the denial of our freedom of conscience by government regulations is precisely the denial of justice, and it is our humiliation emanating from the source of our own government.
The Resurrection power of Jesus Christ will not let the denial of justice, not that humiliation stand in the long run. It cannot be. It is not in accord with the mind of Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead, to whom belongs the victory and to whom belong Glory and Power and Honor in the Holy Church, for ever and ever. Amen!
Our service, the Gospel tells us (Jn 17:6, 14-19), takes us beyond the world in which we live, and the First Reading (Num 3:5-9) affirms that. The Levites, in the first reading, were set apart and were consecrated as belonging to the Lord in a special way. "I have chosen you . . . you are mine
. . . you are set apart from the world," the Lord says to the Levites. And you, Vince and Garrett, are the descendants of those Levites. You were called out of the world, to belong, in a special way, to Christ.
But then, as the Gospel says, "not belonging to the world, you go back into the world." The world is where you are to serve, and that is where your humiliation happens, along with the denial of justice. As you receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders for the Diaconate, unto the likeness of Jesus Christ the servant, you are formed by the Holy Spirit, into that kind of suffering servant. And it's a miracle, that to that kind of a servant belong hope and joy and peace.
What does that mean today, "in his humiliation, justice was denied him?" How would we say that today? We would say, "when it came to speaking the truth, he was the most politically incorrect character who ever lived; and the world beat him up for it." You know, sometimes somebody will tell me, about a priest or a deacon, "everybody likes him!" Where is the humiliation in that? Where is the denial of justice in that? The word of the Lord grabs politically correct people, the wrong way, and when one is a true servant of the Lord, one speaks that truth which grabs
people the wrong way at times. People come up to me and they say things like, "well in my parish, it's not allowed to speak out about abortion," "in my parish it's not allowed to speak out about artificial contraception." Avoiding such topics means neglecting to give the whole Truth of Jesus Christ!
The most basic truth about Jesus Christ is that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that He is risen from the dead! But the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, and the one who is risen from the dead teaches us clearly that human dignity will not permit abortion and that human dignity will not tolerate artificial contraception. And when we speak out on this — as is happening right now all over the news — we are humiliated and denied justice, just like Christ the suffering servant, in whose person you are ordained tonight. Your call to be just like Christ the suffering servant is a call to be politically incorrect when the truth requires it, and to take the consequences.
Jesus wins in the end
The Church into which we move, in the days ahead, is not the kind of a Church which seeks only to say that which does not grab people the wrong way. The Church into which we move is a Church under assault, a Church which our country and our culture wants to humiliate, a Church to whom our government wants to deny justice; that's who we are. And tonight, with joy, and with hope, and with peace, I say, "welcome aboard!" because Jesus Christ is the winner when all is said and done, and nothing that happens — whether perpetrated by a government or whomever — can thwart God's saving plan which He had in mind from the beginning of the world.
Nothing could overcome the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And that is where we get our credibility — we are humiliated, we are denied justice, and we smile, we're joyful, and we're at peace, because the Holy Spirit teaches us that secret that the world doesn't want to know anything about, that nobody wins in the end, except Jesus Christ.
And in prayer, every day, that's where we get our nerve, that's where we get our energy. And the sacramental grace you receive — I can tell you from personal experience — is so wonderful that as you get older, if you allow it, it increases your joy and your hope and your peace.
Promises and sacrifice
And what consecrates you and sets you apart more than the grace of perpetual celibacy that you receive from Jesus Christ? You make that promise tonight, and you sacrifice the goods of marriage for the sake of God's Kingdom and His people. Unless you are called to martyrdom, you're not going to be called upon to make any greater sacrifice than the giving of your life now to God's people. So, you make that sacrifice tonight, up front, a year before you're ordained a priest so that the Lord can fashion you in that gift, to be even more completely His than you are tonight, through priestly ordination.
Jesus says, "I have called you out of the world, then I send you into the world." When you embrace celibacy, and you are called out of the world, so that the world doesn't accept you, in humiliation and the denial of justice, you have something — between you and Jesus Christ — that is so powerful that it gives you the freedom to love God above all else, and to give yourselves with all your heart to your bride, the Church, God's beloved people, in a marriage that will be the most enduring of all.
Unlike most marriages, this marriage of yours, tonight, in the profession of celibacy, does not end in death. This sacrifice of yours sets you apart and consecrates you, and it makes you special in the eyes of Jesus Christ. But it does not make you special in a self-congratulatory sort of way, about which you can brag. No, the fact that you are special means that much more will be asked of you, and that at times in your life you truly will be the suffering servant.
But the freedom of celibacy is true freedom and the freedom of celibacy means that you are enlivened completely by the conviction, given by Christ, that how things go in this world is not the end of the matter. And that means, when things seem to go wrong all over the place, that can never be the end of you.
There is a seal on your soul, a presence of the Holy Spirit, that makes your gift of celibacy nothing for you but joy and strength. You can always tell if someone has embraced the wonderful gift of celibacy, for they never look like a sourpuss; they have accepted the gift of the joy, and the hope, and the peace of Jesus Christ abiding in a way that the world can never take away.
Joining the 'first team'
So, Garrett and Vince, tonight you move up towards the "first team," for carrying out the victory of Jesus Christ, the victory over sin and death. Tonight you get what you need from the Holy Spirit, to begin to fight in that battle, to begin to play your role. You are going to take up your role and play, assured that you win.
And no matter how rough it gets on the field, you can act, assured that you're going to win. And the assurance that you're going to win is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God making you Vince, and you Garrett, in the person of Jesus Christ the suffering servant Himself. And thanks be to God for that.
And so, as this month of Blessed Mary draws to a close, we entrust you and your ministry to the greatest of all Christian believers, whose perfect, "yes," we pray, will be mirrored in your own, which you say right now!
Christ is risen, indeed He is risen!