Homily of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: Diaconate of White Fathers

Published: November 29 Mon, 2021

Homily of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: Diaconate of White Fathers Available in the following languages:

Homily Diaconate White Fathers

Jerusalem, St. Anna, November 27, 2021

Dear all,

the Lord give you peace!

(Various greetings)

I would like to stop only on some passages of the readings you have chosen.

1. The first reading is known and loved by all those who have followed a particular vocation. All of us, especially at the beginning of our vocation, learnt this passage by heart, together with the other one, no less moving, of Ger. 20, 7-9: “you have deceived me, and I was deceived.

From this beautiful reading I take only two considerations.

a) The expression: “I have consecrated you” הקדשתיך)). The original meaning of this expression means to "separate". The Lord, in fact, in choosing you has somehow separated you from the rest of the people. You have a different role in the society than the other people in the life of the world. In your case it is even more evident, since you are all missionaries, therefore also physically separated from your cultural and social context of life, family life, etc.

Of course, today we insist a lot on necessity of being among the people. The Pope always speaks of closeness, of proximity. And all this is essential and necessary today. But at the same time the people want you to be different, and in reality you are different: you don't get married, you don't seek money and power, you don't have to seek personal success in your works, and not infrequently - let's say it - you will spend your life obeying people who do not really know you, who perhaps do not understand you and will not know how to recognize you for what you really are. This is not a normal life according to the world standard and what makes you different from the others. So, stay among the people, love them, but remain for them a light, a nostalgia, an example of what it means to belong to God, to be the property of God.

The second consideration concerns the conclusion of the first reading: “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1,9)

Here the Lord touches the mouth of the prophet. In Isaiah some Seraphim with embers of fire will touch and purify the lips of the prophet. It is an important act of purification. With the deaconate you too become formally announcers, not only because you can proclaim the Gospel in the liturgy, but because you can preach, announce the Gospel. May then your mouth and even more your heart, from which all our feelings come out, be purified, free from hardheartedness, and be the place where the Word of God is ruminated.

And then is written, “I have put my words in your mouth”. God's Word, not yours. Do not appropriate the Word of God, but only be servants of it. Do not appropriate the ministry, but exercise the diakonia with your lifestyle, do not impose yourself on the people of God, but only be their servants.

2. The second reading is equally important. A moment in the life of the first Christian community of Jerusalem, of those who preceded us. Even then there was no lack of misunderstandings and tensions, linked to real, basic needs, such as the service of the daily distribution of food. In fact, since then the Church was already attentive to the concrete needs of the community and dedicated herself to a service that today we would call "social service". The events of the primitive community, like those of ancient Israel, have never been free from tensions and misunderstandings, and the Bible does not hide any of this. In these stories we can read in filigree the history of every Christian community in every age. These are concrete, real communities engaged in ordinary daily activities, like those we also carry out today. And in those activities the humanity of their members emerges, like ours and that of everyone, made up of discussions, opinions and different visions, misunderstandings if not even divisions. It would seem, at first glance, that the Bible, in those stories, wants us to know situations of littleness and infidelity. And certainly, there is also this. But, at the same time, it seems to me, the Bible wants us to see how in those events, in those misunderstandings and in the following discussions, also the God's plan gradually makes its way. That is, how something new and unexpected arises, that probably would not have emerged if there had not been those discussions and disagreements. In our passage, for example, those misunderstandings led to the birth of the diaconal ministry in the Church. An important passage in the history of the Church. A similar argument can be made for the way in which the understanding of the necessity of proclamation to the pagans was reached and so for many other important moments in the history of the Church.

Differences, even painfully hurtful, within communities, therefore, are not always to be read as an obstacle or an infidelity, an inability to open up to God's plan, or as a barrier that separates us from the full understanding of the Word of God, but they are often - if lived with a spirit of faith - precisely the Place where God's will makes its way. They are like the necessary pains of childbirth. There is no new birth, in fact, without pain. We must not, therefore, escape too easily from those situations, but learn to live them Christianly.

The passage from the Acts clearly tells us that this is also the usual way of evolving of each community. And who knows in this very particular period, which we still cannot interpret, with so many uncertainties and fears, with so many ongoing struggles, who knows what the Lord is preparing us for, what this suffering is generating in the heart of our Church and in ours. And perhaps we can also say the same for your religious community, and for many others. What is the Lord preparing you for? We are not yet able, probably, to answer this question, but one thing we know: never what is experienced in listening sincerely to the Word of God, nothing experienced and suffered in the authentic desire to search for will of God, nothing of all that, will be lost. What lived in that way will certainly acquire a meaning and lead to more knowledge of the Lord, to an ever deeper and freer relationship with him. We therefore ask for the gift and the grace to live this period with the same spirit and with the same attitude, free from the pretense of understanding everything at once. Pretense which basically expresses forms of possession and fear, which are the greatest obstacles for every community and for every spiritual journey.

In conclusion, there will be misunderstandings in your ministry. There will be solitudes and clashes. Do not live all only as an obstacle to living your ministry. Instead, more often than you think, they will be the place to carry out that your ministry.

3. The Gospel concludes our reflection by reminding us that the world was already saved by Jesus, and that salvation came through the gift of his life. Whoever loves, serves, gives himself to the other, ready also becomes a slave, as we heard in the Gospel passage. Power and love can't go well together. In fact, love is necessarily free and gratuitous. Power has diametrically opposed dynamics.

So may your life be a small echo of your encounter with Jesus, who brought you here from different parts of the world, and who will send you to the most diverse parts of the world: people chosen, consecrated and set apart by the will of God; that in the service of the ministry, sometimes joyful, sometimes tiring, you always remain attached to the Word of God, which is the bread that you ruminate in your mouth, like the Eucharist, which you will serve on the altar. Service that will continue in the poor and wherever the Church takes you, in the awareness that in that service, humble, simple, and given for the life of the world, your lamp will shine, and the Kingdom of God will grow.

+ Pierbattista