Diaconate Ordination of Joseph Friend

Published: May 22, 2019

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Christ the King Church in Little Rock on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. It is based on the following readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Psalm 42; Philippians 2:5-11; and Mark 10:35-45.

Bishop Taylor

One of my most moving experiences these last 11 years as your bishop was the day we gathered around Betty Friend’s sick bed just a few days before she died and she said something I will never forget. She said, “I trust my sons with you, am placing them in your hands, take care of my boys.” I already knew that Betty was a woman of great faith in the Lord and now I experienced how much faith she had in me, or more precisely, in the Church. She was really giving her sons to the Lord in his Church.

Except that they had already beat her to it. Both Patrick and Joseph were already in the seminary. Indeed, she and Jerry had already entrusted all three of their children to the Lord from earliest childhood and they nurtured their children’s faith every step of the way. Joseph, in your vocation story on the diocesan website, you say you first felt a call to the priesthood when you were 12 years old attending a Mass at Catholic High.

As Fr. Lawrence Fredrick elevated the host, you heard the Lord say, “Come, follow me” as you peered into Jesus’ eyes in the mosaic located behind the altar.  But you know what, I’ve done some research. Your brother and sister told me awhile back that even as a small child you were already saying you wanted to be a priest. And that you were always proud that your middle name Scott was given to you to honor your much-loved uncle and great inspiration for your future ministry.

Continue to take to heart Jesus’ words and the greatness that already marks your humble, self-sacrificing heart will continue to grow and bear ever greater fruit in your own life, and through you, in the life of others.

All of our seminarians are virtuous, but in some of them there is a particular virtue that stands out in an extraordinary way and in your case, Joseph, that virtue is humility. I admire this virtue so much that I chose it for my own episcopal motto: “The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth.” This virtue is at the heart of the diaconate to which I will be ordaining you today — the word "deacon" means "servant" — and even more fully once I ordain you a priest. The fact that you chose readings for your ordination that emphasize humble self-sacrificing service, is a clear indication that the virtue of humility has long been second nature to you.

In the Gospel you chose we have James and John seeking the most important positions in the kingdom that Jesus has come to establish, and he responds that in his kingdom, ambition of that sort will get you nowhere. And the same is true in ministry. When I was in charge of the permanent deacon program in Oklahoma City, I always asked applicants why they wanted to be a deacon. One time an applicant responded: “Well this way I will be, in effect, second-in-command in the parish and what I say will have more weight.” We did not accept him into our program.

This was right in line with what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” Far from focusing on the authority that may of necessity come with a given role in ministry, Jesus focuses on the cost of discipleship, the death to self that is involved: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

Self-emptying humility like that of Jesus: “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Our second reading says the same thing. Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave ... he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Joseph, by presenting yourself today for ordination to the diaconate, you are responding to a call to greatness that has nothing to do with worldly ambition and everything to do with humble service. I know that your mother is looking down on you with much pride and satisfaction today as she sees the seed of faith that she and your dad planted and nurtured all those years blossom in your life and give such glory to God.

Continue to take to heart Jesus’ words and the greatness that already marks your humble, self-sacrificing heart will continue to grow and bear ever greater fruit in your own life, and through you, in the life of others.