By Bishop Edward J. Burns
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I had the privilege and honor of ordaining Ronald Mathews and Michael Monagle to the Permanent Diaconate on Friday, August 8, 2014 at St. Paul the Apostle Church. The night before the ordination we celebrated Solemn Vespers. I would like to offer this column as representative of my reflection that evening. At the same time, I would ask that you join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for their ordination and ask the Lord to bless them in their diaconal ministry.
“Good evening and a special word of welcome to all of you, especially our guests from out of town. This is an evening filled with much joy, anticipation and thanksgiving.
• The joy of being blessed with the Diaconate in our Church and in this wonderful Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.
• The anticipation of tomorrow’s ordination, when Mike and Ron will begin a life of ordained ministry.
• And the thanksgiving to God for blessing us with two very talented men dedicated to the Lord and committed to Him through the Church.
I was so struck by this evening’s reading—it is so powerful and speaks volumes of the task that lies ahead for Mike and Ron. Allow me to read it again:
(1 Peter 1:22-23) By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers and sisters; therefore, love one another constantly from the heart. Your rebirth has come, not from a destructible but from an indestructible seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
In praying through this scripture passage, I’d like to dissect it and offer some reflection.
By obedience to the truth – For us, this is obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ and to the Magisterium of the Church. Now Ron and Mike, through ordination you will be a part of the hierarchy of the Church. This “obedience to the truth” is vital to the ministry that lies before you.
The passage calls for a genuine love of your brothers and sisters – in knowing both of you, I see this genuine love expressed in so many ways by the great work you have done at St. Gregory Parish in Sitka and here at St. Paul’s. Ron – for the wonderful ways you have been an element of stability; your presence has helped in times of transition in your parish. People have looked to you because of your good work. Mike – for the wonderful ways you have given to the workings of the parish, on its councils, through the Knights of Columbus, in catechetical ministry, the RCIA, etc. Both of you have demonstrated your genuine love through relationships with your family members and, in particular, with your wives, who will be for you a wonderful support. I pray that you always exude that genuine love for others.
Your rebirth has come – Brothers, with tomorrow’s ordination – this will be a new life for you. It will be a rebirth in your relationship with Jesus Christ. He will use you as his instrument, his mouthpiece. You will be his servant and people will recognize His presence through your charitable acts. Your rebirth has come! Always give him praise and honor for this rebirth, this new life, this new ministry – an ordained ministry that is so desperately needed in Southeast Alaska. Because we too need to be reborn in our relationship with Jesus Christ, I pray that through your good work and service, we may come to know a deeper relationship with Christ. We want to hear his words through you; we want to know his presence through yours, and we need you to fan into flame that faith that has been instilled in our hearts since baptism. Your lives of witness to Jesus Christ are needed so that those who do not believe will wonder or be intrigued about your strength, your joy, your peace and your determination. I pray that those who do not know Jesus Christ will come to know Him through your words, your charitable acts and your genuine love for others. I pray that through you they will discover that Jesus Christ is your strength, your joy, your peace and your determination.
And this rebirth comes from (as Scripture says) an indestructible seed – and that seed is the word of God, the truth that cannot be destroyed. It is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who men tried to silence, who they crucified to the cross, but who rose from the dead and called his disciples out of their fright to go forth with confidence to bear witness to the cross and to sow the indestructible seed that would bear much fruit. Know that the seed you sow in your diaconal ministry is the same indestructible seed that has been watered by the blood of martyrs. Do not be afraid to sow the seed, the word of God, the truth that is Jesus Christ.
As our Scripture passage tells us, this indestructible seed is the living and enduring word of God. Ron and Mike, may this word of God live and endure in your diaconal ministry. And we, your family and friends, your co-workers in the vineyard, your fellow parishioners, your brothers and sisters in Christ – will support you in your ministry with our prayers and affection. As you begin this night of final preparation for ordination, we ask that God will send down upon you his peace and his choicest blessings so that we in turn will be blessed by your charitable work and service.”