Bishop Caggiano Homily @ Permanent Diaconate Ordination 06/29

The following homily was given by Bishop Caggiano at the Permanent Diaconate Ordination, June 29, 2024.

Please be seated and relax.

My dear friends, what a joyful morning it is for you and I, all of us here, sisters and brothers in faith, to gather around our three brothers whom God, in his loving providence and mercy, has called them to this moment in the journey of their life, supported by the love of their wives and their children and their grandchildren and all those who have walked with you, brothers, in this adventure that is your life, we all gather here with great gratitude to God, for he has called you into a great mystery. To to become living sacruments of self-sacrificing love, and to remind all of us by our baptism what we are to do, you will now dedicate your life to that, both in your ministry and, quite frankly, in every moment of every day that you will live. You know very well what it is the Lord is asking of you. And all of us in this church as well know know what this great sacrament of the Achanit is. Certainly, it is to be a servant. And so you are being called to join your brothers already ordained to be a servant of the word.

And as we said last night when we gathered for that beautiful dinner, so too, you are a servant of the word by the words you speak, but by the living testimony of your life. You are to become a living gospel. And from what I have heard last night, you are already doing that. You are very well prepared to be the herald of the good news of salvation, even in the moment or perhaps most effectively in the moments of great suffering, of great loss, of great pain, of great uncertainty. And then, of course, you are going to be the servant of the altar, not simply assisting the priest or deacon in the manners so that liturgy can be celebrated reverently. But remember, you are the sacrum of charity, and so you will bring to the altar all that the people of God share with you their hopes, their dreams, their challenges, their pains. You will be there interceding for them, praying for them, and bringing the Holy Eucharist to them, the sacred body, blood, soul, and divinity, the food of everlasting life. And then, of course, to be called not to be served, but to serve, to be a man of charity to your spouse, to your children and grandchildren, to your family and friends, to your coworkers, to your fellow parishioners, and wherever God takes you.

As I said before, you are already doing this well. And with the of God, you will do it in ways that you will be able to sit back and wonder at what God can do through frail human lives like yours and mine. But today, we gather, my friends, on a beautiful and singular feast day. We gather to join our voices with believers throughout the world and believers through all the ages. To honor the two great princes of the Apostles, the Fisherman and the rabbi, the one who was educated and the one who was a simple laborer, the one who was called the rock by Christ, as we heard in the gospel, upon which the entire church was built, and the one with the fiery sword and fiery tongue who went where others feared to go among the Gentiles. Together, you and I stand on their shoulders in this great symphony of faith whose first notes were sung in the empty tomb. For me to have the privilege to ordain you on the feast of Peter and Paul, the Apostles, reminds me of the great gift you will be to me and my successors. For like all your brothers in the deaconet, The relationship between the bishop and his deacons is a special one, a unique one.

May I dare say, a beautiful fraternal one. For you will become the marines of charity to go where I may ask, my successes may ask, and to follow in the footsteps of the fearless ones, Peter and Paul. But both have a lesson, and may I suggest that it is true for you and all of us in this church. For Paul was the one who said, When I am weak, then I am strong. He is the one who said, But for me, life is Christ and death is gain. For Paul was zealous for the law. He boasted of it. He was single minded in his devotion to what he believed Yahweh was asking him to do, even to persec the early church. And yet when he encountered Christ, his entire life changed. And that same zeal, single mindedness, then propelled him to do things which you and I, my friends, chances are, would not have the strength to do, to even be saved from the lion’s mouth, as we heard in second reading. And so today on your ordination day, Paul, from his celestial place, is reminding you, brothers, of single-mindedness. Your life now must be all about Christ, who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord of the living and the dead.

And by doing that, it will free you to love your wives in a whole new, more beautiful way, your children and grandchildren in a whole new way, and God’s people in a whole new way. Because by giving up everything for Christ, we gain everything back and more. It is all about not about you, not about me, but about Christ. And Paul teaches us that. Then, of course, Peter, we heard today, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. He gives the first testimony of who Christ really is as our savior and redeem. And yet was he not also the one who said, I do not know him. I do not know him. I do not know him. And yet Peter was a man of great conviction. He was stubborn in the best sense of the word, and he recognized his frailty. He recognized his sinfulness. He recognized his faults and failings. And when Christ rose from the dead, you remember, Christ asked him, Do you love me? And three times made up for his betrayal, Yes, Lord, you know I love you. Then feed my sheep. Brothers, you have been called to something you are not worthy of, nor am I.

That you will look yourself in the mirror every day and realize there are a thousand reasons why someone else perhaps has better gifts and talents than you. And you will also always, like I do every morning and every night, confront my own sinfulness as you do yours. Remember the example of Peter. For Peter was chosen not because he was perfect, but because he was humble of heart, Because even in his stubbornness, he knew the voice of the shepherd, and he learned how to truly love. And so may Peter guide you. May Peter help you to unlock the true depths of your heart in humility of life so that you will love, you will love sacrificially, recklessly, generously, everyone you meet, and teach the world what service really means in Jesus Christ. Allow me to end by simply saying this, There was one who consol both Peter and Paul, one who was their advocate and guide, one who was their hidden strength. You know to whom I am referring, it is the great mother of God, the mother of the savior, and your mother, our mother as well. As you prepare to prostrate yourself here before us and to rise up to be ordained into this great sacrament, feel her love, her mantle, guiding you, wrapping you, protecting you, always, every time, all the days of your life.

For if you ever find yourself confused or doubting or discouraged, turn to her with the example of the Apostles, you, brothers, and you, brothers, and you, brothers and sisters, all of us have nothing to fear. Congratulations. And may God bless you all the days of your life through Christ, our Lord. Amen.