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Ordination Demands Deaconal Commitment: Bishop Flores Invites Deacons in Galveston-Houston Archdiocese to Live Matthew 25

We recently attended the ordination of transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, especially for Miguel Alvizures, whose story was in the last issue of the Houston Catholic Worker. Six deacons were ordained, including one for the Diocese of Dallas and one for Victoria; seminary students from those Dioceses also study at St. Mary’s Seminary for their theology. Next year these men will be ordained priests.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Flores of Detroit, who until recently was on the faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, celebrated the Mass. As Bishop Flores spoke of the role of the deacon in the Church, we could see very well why he was selected to be a bishop.

As he addressed the new deacons, the Bishop anti-cipated the question many would ask the newly ordained men. What does it mean to be a deacon? They may respond, Bishop Flores said, as we often do, in terms of what they can do as deacons—proclaim the Gospel, preach the Gospel, celebrate the liturgy with the priest, baptize. There is a deeper meaning, however, to being a deacon. Some might want to celebrate the liturgy, but not visit the hospital. No! If deacons are to celebrate the liturgy, you are to also visit the hospital, the poor, the sick, the outcasts, people who are outcasts because they are poor, sick, or without legal papers. In the earliest days and years of the Church deacons brought the charity of Christ to the poor. Many of the martyrs of the early Church were deacons, for example, St. Stephen, St. Lawrence. One reason they were martyrs is that they were always with the poor—those of the empire knew where to find them.

Reading the Gospel, preaching the Gospel, celebrating the liturgy, and helping the poor are interwoven in a single reality—for every Christian, not just for deacons, the Bishop said. They cannot be separated. He reminded us of the profound teaching of Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical on God’s love:

“Faith, worship and ethos are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God’s agape . Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart. ‘Worship’ itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.

It isn’t easy for us to find time for a two-hour liturgy, but we knew it was important to take the time out on a busy Saturday morning while our other Catholic Workers covered the houses of hospitality and assisted at the medical clinic. We came away from the ordination Mass as inspired by the homily as we were by the prayerful liturgy celebrated in three languages, as is the custom in Houston for ordinations: English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, accompanied by two choirs and organ, brass instruments and flute. The beautiful music of the Litany of the Saints brought to our consciousness the witnesses of the many centuries of the Church, the martyrs, men and women, the bishops, the teachers, the religious, and all the saints who have gone before us.

The homily reminded us to look again at the whole passage from the encyclical which Bishop Flores had quoted:

“Here we need to consider yet another aspect: this sacramental ‘mysticism’ is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants. As Saint Paul says, ‘Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ ( 1 Cor 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become ‘one body’, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape also became a term for the Eucharist: there God’s own agapecomes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us. Only by keeping in mind this Christological and sacra-mental basis can we correctly understand Jesus’ teaching on love. The transition which he makes from the Law and the Prophets to the twofold commandment of love of God and of neighbor, and his grounding the whole life of faith on this central precept, is not simply a matter of morality—something that could exist apart from and alongside faith in Christ and its sacramental re-actualization… The ‘commandment’ of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be “commanded” because it has first been given.

“This principle is the starting-point for understanding the great parables of Jesus.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

“The rich man (cf. Lk 16:19-31) begs from his place of torment that his brothers be informed about what happens to those who simply ignore the poor man in need. Jesus takes up this cry for help as a warning to help us return to the right path.

The Good Samaritan

“The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of ‘neighbor’ was understood as referring essentially to one’s countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of ‘neighbor’ is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members.

Matthew 25

“Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life’s worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ ( Mt 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.”


Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, January-February 2008.