Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s additions to the Instruction for the Ordination of a Deacon homily.
May 28, 2017
By God’s providence, you are being ordained a deacon on the day when the Church throughout the world celebrates the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Jesus’ glorious Ascension demonstrates His great victory over sin and death, a victory which He shares with all of us who are members of His Mystical Body, the Church. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised His disciples, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32). And so it happened in Jerusalem, 40 days after Easter: Jesus our Lord, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb 9:24). At God’s right hand, Christ constantly exercises His priesthood, for He “always lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb 7:25).
Just prior to His Ascension, Jesus told His disciples, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses …to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
In a few minutes from now, my son, just before being ordained a deacon, you will prostrate yourself on the floor of this Cathedral, as a sign of total surrender to Christ. In this way, you are imitating Jesus Himself who, as St. Paul writes (Phil 2:8), “…humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” This humble prostration expresses your awareness that the power that the Holy Spirit brings is not something any one deserves but rather a gift of God for the sake of serving others.
It is appropriate to stand in awe of this gift, this power from the Holy Spirit; for it equips you for the work of sacred ministry, ministry that is badly needed in the Church’s battle against Satan, the Father of Lies, and in Her mission to bear witness to Jesus, following the example of the Apostles.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem, until they received the Holy Spirit’s power; only then could they begin their ministry, because without His power from on high, the Church and her ministers can do nothing.
You, my son, have been waiting for this day of ordination for several years, actively waiting as you prepared through the discipline of study, prayer and the many rigors of priestly formation. Now the waiting is over; from this day forward, you will be a public witness to Jesus Christ in communion with me and my successors.
What lies before you is a great privilege but also a great responsibility, a responsibility so great that only by the power of the Spirit will you succeed. Remember that the first martyr of the Church was a deacon, St. Stephen. By the Spirit’s power, he found the courage to suffer and die for love of Christ. With this in mind, listen to the words of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, spoken during times of terrible persecution of the Church in Poland, “The greatest weakness in an apostle is fear. What gives rise to fear is lack of confidence in the power of the Lord; this is what oppresses the heart and tightens the throat… ‘Use fear to enforce silence’ is the first goal in the strategy of the wicked.’ “
Always keep in mind, my son, the last words of Jesus, spoken before He ascended into heaven, “…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). The Lord Jesus is always with us; and He provides us with His Holy Spirit as the principal agent by which we take part in the Church’s mission of evangelization. He is the One who places the power of courage within our hearts, and words of truth upon our lips, enabling us to proclaim God’s word, with charity and conviction, whether popular or not. He is also the One who moves the hearts of our listeners to accept God’s word and put it into practice.