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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: August 11, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Jude Church in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. It is based on the following readings: Acts 20; Psalm 100; 1 Timothy 4:12-16; and John 21:15-19.
A little less than 2,000 years ago, the early Church discovered that they had a problem. People were falling through the cracks. Newcomers were being neglected. The widows of Greek-speaking Christians in the Jerusalem community were being neglected by the Aramaic-speaking Christians "in the daily distribution" and this led to a restructuring of the Church to better serve the community's needs.
There were two language groups and the seven men selected to be the first deacons were chosen for the express purpose of bridging a gap that had arisen in the life of the Church. They were to be the glue within the community. As we will see, however, as time progressed and the needs of the Church evolved, the role of these first deacons evolved to meet these changing needs.
Now they were not just waiting on tables. Two of their number, Stephen and Phillip, were soon presented as preachers of the Good News as active ministers of the word and the deacon Stephen, of course, became the first martyr.
Chastity requires us to be pure not only in our overt actions, but also in our thoughts and in our words, pure in the way we deal with others — no deceit, no mixed messages. Pure and sincere in the desires of our own heart. And of course, this requires death to self, which is the foundation of a life lived for others.
Here in Arkansas, over the course of the next five days, we will be ordaining five men to the transitional diaconate and two current deacons to the priesthood, and Alex, you’re the first! And it's worth noting that you don't stop being a deacon once you become a priest, or a bishop, for that matter. Meaning that the three-fold diaconal ministry of charity, ministry of the word and ministry of the altar is fundamental for all ordained ministers in the Catholic Church.
Alex, you stand before us today as a man called by the Church to serve the Lord as a minister of charity, as a minister of the altar and a minister of the word. You have learned Spanish very well because you know that the Lord has called you to bridge a gap that has arisen in the life of our local Church. You have studied theology not only because the Church requires this, but because you want to be well equipped to proclaim the Good News of Jesus' redemptive death and resurrection, and to explain what this means for us in our daily lives.
And you have been formed in the liturgy of the Church in order to equip you assist at the Eucharist, preside over public prayer, administer baptism, bless marriages, bring viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites. And because you will be ordained to the priesthood in less than a year from now, God willing, today you will also publicly promise to embrace celibate chastity for the rest of your life as a "sign of your dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the hingdom of heaven, in the service of God and man."
In all of this, you are making a profoundly counter-cultural commitment. A preferential concern for the poor and marginalized modeled on that of Jesus. A life dedicated to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God in a world shrouded in darkness, in a society which often gives lip-service to Jesus but then turns around and does the opposite.
And of course, nothing could be more counter-cultural or a more powerful sign in today's hedonistic society than your commitment to celibate chastity. This, of course, means much more than just sexual abstinence. Chastity requires us to be pure not only in our overt actions, but also in our thoughts and in our words, pure in the way we deal with others — no deceit, no mixed messages. Pure and sincere in the desires of our own heart. And of course, this requires death to self, which is the foundation of a life lived for others.
Alex, your faithful response to the Lord's call is an inspiration to all of us. I am proud to welcome you into the ranks of the ordained clergy of the Diocese of Little Rock. And we all assure you of our prayers as you place yourself and your future fully in the hands of the Lord today.