Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran at the Ordination of Martin Reidy as a Permanent Deacon

Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran at the Ordination of Martin Reidy as a Permanent Deacon

Church of the Risen Christ – Third Sunday of Advent

The Lord is Near – Joyful Anticipation

Many of you here will have had the experience of looking forward to someone coming home from overseas, a son or daughter, a sister or brother. There is joyful anticipation about it, which builds up from the moment you first hear the news to the moment when you stand in the arrivals area at the Airport waiting for them to come out through customs. The third Sunday of Advent is like the last stage of waiting at the Airport, just before the plane touches down. It is called Gaudete Sunday because of the rejoicing which is almost impossible to contain. I’m sure there were moments like that when Martin returned from a tour of peace-keeping in the Middle East.

Today the Parish of Kiltoom and the whole Diocese of Elphin gathers with Martin and Anne to celebrate another moment of arrival, together with John and Orlaith. It is over four years since Martin first set out on this journey of preparation for the permanent diaconate. It was a serious commitment and other things had to be put on hold. It has been a time of serious reflection and prayer. There have been assignments and pastoral placements and, during all of this time, Martin has continued with the “day job”. Today we share your joy that all of this preparation has brought us to this final moment of waiting when God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will do something new and wonderful in your life.

A Witness to Speak for the Light

In our Gospel reading today we hear the Good News about a man who came “sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.” We are told that “He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light”. This is possibly a good place for us to start our reflection about our own mission in the Church, as Baptised people or indeed as ordained ministers.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. We are witnesses to that light, whose role is to help others to come to faith. It is true of course that we have to begin by nourishing our own faith, by listening to the Word in our own hearts. But that is not where it ends. Every true disciple is a missionary, or to use the words of the Gospel “a witness”.

Martin’s ordination today is not the beginning of his discipleship or of his bearing witness to the light.  It simply puts it in a particular context, by formally entrusting Martin with a public responsibility in the name of the Church. Like John the Baptist, Martin is not the light. He is a witness to the light. All of us who exercise ministry in the Church, from the Bishop right up to the youngest altar server, need to remind ourselves from time to time that “this is not all about me”. As a deacon, Martin will be called to imitate Jesus Christ who came not to be served, but to serve.

A Threefold Ministry of Altar, Word and Charity

There are three particular aspects to the ministry of a deacon.

  • The Altar: Martin will be called to assist at the altar at Mass. You can also expect to see him celebrating Baptisms and some parts of the Funeral liturgy.
  • The Word: As a minister of the Word, Martin will be called upon, as the prophet Isaiah says, to bring “good news” through his preaching and to proclaim “the Lord’s favour”. He will lead public prayer and to support catechetical initiatives which help people to grow in faith.

In the early centuries of the Church, deacons worked very closely with the Bishop and often had significant responsibilities for administration. In the 21st century, one of the great blessings of having deacons in a Diocese is in the variety of skills and experience that they bring to their ministry from their professional careers.

Among those who were inspired to proclaim their faith in Jesus, because of their experience of how He lived and how He died, were a number of experts in Jewish Law and at least two Roman Centurions. Deacon Martin, as a solicitor and a former army officer, follows in that tradition. As a peace-keeper in the Middle-East, he has literally walked in their footsteps. He has seen for himself, how families and whole communities are, still today, impoverished and made vulnerable by the abuse of power, just as they were in the time of Jesus. This experience touches directly into the third element of his ministry as a Deacon; what is known as:

  • The Ministry of Charity. A deacon is called in a particular way to serve those who are at risk of being marginalised in the Church and in Society. This ministry includes any kind of outreach to those who are in need; the sick, the homeless, those who are in prison, to mention just a few. It is, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, about “binding up hearts that are broken”.

We join with Isaiah (First Reading) and Mary the mother of Jesus (Psalm) in “exulting for joy” because of what the Lord is doing among us. Isaiah talks about being clothed in the garments of salvation. In a few moments Martin will also be putting on his vestments. It is important to remember that these are only an external sign of putting on Christ. What we celebrate is what the Lord is doing in Martin and what Martin, through the grace of ordination, will be able to do in the name of Jesus.

Welcome and Expression of Gratitude

Martin, I want to welcome you among the clergy of the Diocese of Elphin. Anne, I want to express my sincere gratitude to you and to your adult children John and Orlaith, for your willingness to support Martin in the commitment that he has made today, in the service of God and of the Christian community. I want to assure you that the Diocese of Elphin has no intention of stealing Martin away from you. I am very conscious that Martin’s first commitment is as a husband and a father. I don’t see that in any way as a limitation on his ministry as a deacon. It will be, I believe, one of the places from where he draws energy and compassion for his ministry to be fruitful. I think we priests can learn something from this. We are not just service-providers; we also need the nourishment of family, of good friends and of being rooted in a community. 

Before we proceed to the Rite of Ordination, I want to say a word of sincere thanks on my own behalf and on behalf of the whole Diocese to Fr. Michael Duignan who has accompanied Martin – and all our deacons – throughout their time of formation. Together with Fr. Michael, I want to acknowledge the support of Sr. Mary Kane, Sr. Patricia Tomlinson, Deacon Damian Kearns and the priests and lay people who facilitated Martin’s pastoral placements, as well as all who have generously given of their time and expertise as lecturers, tutors and pastoral supervisors on our diaconate programme. Finally a word of thanks to you Martin for your willingness to make this very significant commitment to voluntary ministry in our Diocese. My prayer for you, in the words of St. Paul, is:

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you be kept safe and blameless, spirit soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and He will not fail you.