Ordination of Ryan Sliwa to the Office of Deacon
Holy Family Church, South Deerfield – November 29, 2014
Jeremiah 1: 4-9
Acts 6: 1-6
John 15: 9-17
What a privilege it is to gather here with you today in this beautiful Church and particularly for this joyful occasion as we celebrate the Lord’s call to Ryan Sliwa to accept, through this ordination, the responsibilities of the Office of Deacon. Over these past years as a student at St. Anselm’s and more recently, as a seminarian at St. John in Brighton, Ryan has responded to the Lord’s call to serve Hispeople, leading him to this day when we, his family and friends, brother priests and deacons, religious men and women, representing the entire people of God will witness the fruition of these years of prayer and study, of service andwitness to the Lord’s love at work in him. The readings that have been chosen for this Ordination Mass help us all to reflect on the ministry of the deacon, from the prophetic callof Jeremiah, the response of the need for service to the widowed and orphaned and finally, to the admonition of Jesus to his apostles in the great priestly prayer, taking place shortly before his own sacrificial death.
For all of us as God’s people and especially for those entrusted to preaching, we are called to have a great lovefor God’s Word, given to us in Sacred Scripture. If we areto be part of the great prophetic tradition, so evident in the Hebrew Scriptures, continued through the ministry of Jesus, then the word of God must permeate our hearts to givevoice to God’s call. Because of his youth, Jeremiah hesitatesat hearing the voice of God urging him to be a prophet. ButGod assuages Jeremiah’s doubts with His promise to inspirehim in his speech and to be with him as he proclaims the Word of God. Through sacred ordination, Ryan will be charged to preach God’s word, in season and out. He will do so with the promise of the sacred grace given to him by God, who never allows his people to be without prophetic voices to draw them always closer to Himself. Jeremiah realized that he could not be a prophet unless hehad the promise of God to be with him in his ministry. “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” are God’s words to this reluctant prophet. We pray that Ryan’s love for God’s word will deepen each day as he seeks to bring the good news to those to whom he will minister. Neither youth nor inexperience hindered Jeremiah and we pray for that same grace in Ryan’s life to sustain him in his preaching the sacred Word.
Along with the great prophetic tradition, the appointment of the seven deacons by the Apostles in our second reading today underscores the charge of Jesus to be of service to our brothers and sisters. The apostles realized that they needed these co-workers in the vineyardto fulfill Jesus’ call to service.
And so, as deacon, Ryan is called to bring the presence of Jesus to the poor, the imprisoned, the alienated, the suffering in body, mind and spirit, the homebound and those separated from our community. Our commitment to servicetruly manifests the ministry of Jesus at work in our world, making concrete the words of Sacred Scripture and fulfillingJesus’ own command to us. The life of anyone consecrated to the Lord must embody the sacrificial love that is servicein Jesus’ name.
In St. John’s Gospel, as Jesus moves from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane to face his own suffering and death for us, He gives to his disciples lastinstructions and finally prays for them as they will takeon His ministry in the world. He speaks to them of the lovethat His Father has for himself, but also for them and tells them that as his disciples, they must remain in his love. Hecalls for the love that is “agape,” ready to give one’s lifefor others. In this sacred ordination, Ryan will promise his life to wholehearted service to God and his people. In living celibacy in our world, Ryan will witness to the power of God at work inhim, sacrificially giving himself to God and to His people asone who is freed to serve Christ with an undivided heart. Jesus’ call to serve is indeed demanding, but it is one filled with the promise of His abiding love and presence for those who give themselves freely to Him.
With this sacred ordination, Ryan will be called to serveat God’s altar, assisting the bishop and priests in preparingfor the celebration of the Eucharist by proclaiming the Gospel, preaching the Word, instructing God’s people in living our Faith, baptizing and welcoming people into the Church, taking Holy Communion to the sick and the homebound, witnessing holy marriages. What a great privilege and responsibility. This past Sunday, God called home a faithful priest andBishop, our dear fifth bishop of Springfield, Joseph F. Maguire. In the tributes that have been spoken and written this week, we find a testimony to a man who truly allowed God to work through him, reaching out to so many in critical times in their lives: at marriages, births, times of sorrow and suffering, times of transitions. His commitmentto service of God and His people never waned, but seem togrow stronger with each passing year. What a great example Bishop Maguire gives to all of us who seek to serveGod and how well we would do to emulate him. As we sendthis great priest and bishop back to the loving God who created him, we are reminded in this ordination today thatthe same calling that drew him to sacred ordination is stillas vibrant in our world today as we witness the ordination of Ryan to the Order of Deacon.
Ryan, as a Deacon, that is, as a minister of Jesus Christ, who came among his disciples as one who served, do the will of God from the heart:Serve the people in love and joy as you would serve the LordHimself. Never allow yourself to be turned away from the Hope offered by the Gospel. Now you are not only a hearer of this Gospel but also its minister. Hold the mystery of faithwith a clear conscience. Express by your actions the word ofGod which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Holy Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God. Then on the last day, when you go out to meet the Lord you will be able to hear him say, “Well done,good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”