On Sunday 17th July, I was joined by Mgr. Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for the ordination of two new deacons, Deacon Andrew Collins of our Diocese and Deacon Timothy Graham of the Ordinariate. Here is the homily I preached at the Mass. The Readings were those for the Sixteenth Sunday of the Year.
We are happy today to ordain to the sacred diaconate Andrew Collins and Timothy Graham. Timothy, married to Anna, is the father of seven children. Brought up an evangelical, but received into full communion in 2009, today he is ordained a deacon for the Ordinariate and will serve with Fr. Simon Chinery in Liphook and Grayshott. Andrew, whose mother Sandy died recently and whom we pray for in this Mass, being not married, will make the commitment to consecrated celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. He will be ordained for the Diocese and serve with Fr. Francis Sasinowski in Stubbington and Lee on Solent. For both men it’s been a long journey by God’s grace to reach this day. All their experiences, all the events of life, all the people they have known, God has graced to draw them to give their lives as deacons. With great joy, what from all eternity God had planned, now comes to fruition.
In today’s Gospel, we are told Jesus came to a village and a woman called Martha welcomed him into her house. This Gospel is rich in meaning for all of us but especially for those being ordained deacons. Martha and Mary lived in the Jerusalem suburb of Bethany, together with their brother Lazarus, whom later Jesus raised from the dead. We know little about these siblings, how old they were, whether their parents had died, or how they came to be living, as some do today, as brothers and sisters in the family home. What we do know is that they were people to whom Jesus not infrequently turned, for friendship, fun and relaxation. Mary, Martha and Lazarus represent three dimensions of Christian ministry: the mind, the will, the heart. Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet, carefully pondered His Word in her mind. Martha, distracted with all the serving, willed that Word into practice, while Lazarus, invisible in this episode, was one whom Jesus loved cordially. This trio encourages us to love Jesus with all our minds, with all our wills and with all our hearts, giving ourselves totally to Him, as the philosopher Bernard Lonergan would say, intellectually, morally and spiritually. Indeed, Martha, Mary and Lazarus challenge us to a deeper conversion of mind, will and heart that we may grow in a personal-passionate relationship with Jesus Christ, within His Body, the Church.
Timothy and Andrew, as deacons (diakonoi, servants) you will be bearers of the Gospel. Our country, Britain these last 50 years has undergone a religious revolution comparable in its historical significance to the Reformation. Millions, 60% of the population, have quietly dropped their Christian beliefs, religious practices and church connections and now say they ‘nones,’ people of no religion. As bearers of the Good News, we must reach out to these souls who need the Message of Christ, who need hope, meaning and purpose in life, who need to know for sure that God exists, that He is a loving Father, that He is on their side, that He wants to save them from sin, suffering and death. This is why as deacons you will have your work cut out! A deacon sacramentally makes present Christ the Servant. This threefold ministry of heart, mind and will makes him a minister of the altar, a minister of the Word, and a minister of charity especially to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the needy. Thank you for what you are doing today. Thank you for willingly being ordained. Thank you for lovingly serving Christ’s Church. Thank you for faithfully teaching the Catholic Faith. So promise to be men of prayer, to be men of kindness, to be men conformed to the mind, will and Heart of Christ. Receive Him in the Eucharist; imbibe His Word from the Church’s Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium. And be holy, as He is holy, filled with His love.
Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. Let me add one final point. In a moment you will both promise respect and obedience to your Ordinary, that is, Andrew to me and Timothy to Mgr. Keith. This is a massive undertaking and one that today is counter-cultural. For obedience, from ob-audire, means ‘to listen to.’ You are promising to listen to what God is asking of you, not just interiorly through your prayer and intuition but externally through the Church and those to whom Christ has entrusted His authority. You are being called to be ‘outward-looking’ servants focused not on yourself but on the Word of God coming to you through others. This is why no minister should ever become a narcissist or a lone-ranger, doing their own thing. From today, as these two men lie on the sanctuary floor facing eastwards ad orientem and giving their lives to Christ and His service, we pray earnestly that they will keep the green wood ever green as team-players within the diaconal college of the Diocese and of the Ordinariate.
So in this Mass, as you take this awesome step, we pray for you both, calling on the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Her on your side, you will ever be full of joy. So may the Lord bless you. May He fill you with His Holy Spirit. May you dwell in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May you persevere in good works and indeed, one day be found worthy of a place in heaven.