When I look through the readings on any given day, there is always a word, or a phrase, in each reading which pops out at me and starts a thought process, seemingly at random. And it’s these ‘random’ thoughts that I’d like to share with you today.
Our first reading, from Acts, features Philip, one of the first seven deacons. Far from being ordained by the Apostles to ‘wait on table’, here Philip is catechising, preaching and baptising, just as he did with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Then, at some later time, the Apostles ‘confirmed’ the new members, just as our Bishop does today. So, although this reading actually says something about the ministerial role of the ordained clergy, it also reminds us of something else.
Two weeks ago, when we were remembering especially those who are discerning, or have followed, their vocation to the religious life, I pointed out that by virtue of our baptism we all have a share in the common priesthood. So too here. Priests are ordained deacon before priest and bishops still wear a dalmatic, the deacon’s vestment, on solemn occasions under their priestly vestment, the chasuble. This is to remind them that they are servants (the root of diakonia), because a deacon is ordained as a servant, albeit with particular duties. But of course, this is the vocation of every Christian. So through our baptism, we not only share in the common priesthood, but we also share in the common diaconate. This reading is a reminder to us that we, as disciples of Christ, are called to serve…to serve God, to serve each other, and to serve all people to the glory of God’s name. And we can do that by embracing the common diaconate within each one of us.
In our second reading, Peter talks of witness. He’s not talking about apologetics, defending the faith, he’s talking about personal witness to the truth that has been given us through the gift of faith. And what I love about this reading is that it’s so gentle. It is not up to us to convince people, it is up to us to sow the seed. The rest is a conversation between them and God. Here, we are being asked to pass on our personal faith with respect and courtesy, witnessing to our Saviour in the gentlest of ways.
Our Gospel reading speaks of keeping Christ’s commandments, not once, but twice. But what are Christ’s commandments? My copy of the code of canon law has 1752 laws…but although Jesus left us many teachings, his two commandments were to love God and to love each other. From these two commandments the whole of the Christian life flows. In fact, if humanity kept these laws there would be no need for any others.
I said at the beginning that these were seemingly random thoughts that entered my head as I was reading our Scripture readings for today. But as I thought about it, I remembered a documentary that I watched some time ago about the Bible; how it was written and constructed. A researcher, who claimed no faith, pointed out that the unity of message and the way that the Bible references itself throughout the ages it was written over, was nothing short of a miracle (and he was aware of the connotations of what he was saying). The reason for that of course, is that although it was indeed written over many centuries through different sources, it has only one author…God. Armed with that, I looked at my random thoughts again.
So I’ve talked about embracing our common diaconate, giving personal witness to our faith, and keeping the commandments that Christ has given us.
How do we embrace our common diaconate? By giving personal witness to our faith and by seeking to keep Christ’s commandments. How do we give personal witness to our faith? By embracing our common diaconate and seeking to keep Christ’s commandments. How do we keep Christ’s commandments? By embracing our common diaconate and giving personal witness to our faith.
Scripture is one, it’s whole, it’s complete; just as God is. And this completeness extends to us, both corporately and as individuals, because we are part of Scripture. Holy Scripture was written for us and as such, our response becomes an inextricable part of it. And none of what we are called to do is onerous, it is simply a natural extension to the gift of faith. The key is gentleness. Just as God was found in the gentle breeze, so are His words of life. We are called to stand in that gentle breeze, to soak in it and witness to it. And in doing so, we can stand in wonder that such immense power is wielded so gently and so beautifully.
With every blessing, Deacon Anthony x