Homily for the Institution of the Ministries of Reader and Acolyte for Tony Livesy
In today’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) we heard that Jesus called and then sent out seventy-two disciples to continue his ministry of bringing the Good News into people’s lives. Please notice two things. Firstly, Jesus knew that people needed him in their lives and, secondly, that Jesus responded by personally commissioning people to help answer that need.
Jesus declared that the harvest is rich. This can refer both to the reality of many people needing Jesus but also that there can exist a great depth of emptiness within people. Today many people – even in our own area – do not know Christ or choose to live as if Christ has nothing to offer. This is very sad. Creating a distance from Christ causes a deep emptiness within people, who have now become internally disjointed – and we know that this can occur even within our loved ones and indeed ourselves too.
God loves everyone, and so he wants to help people. Closeness to Jesus changes lives for the better, mirrored by the First Reading’s image of the baby lying happily within the arms of his or her mother (Isaiah 66:10-14). Experiencing tender care from the divine brings great joy and peace for all disciples (c.f. First Reading and Psalm 65, especially the fourth stanza “Come and hear, all who fear God. I will tell what he did for me soul”). The effects of God’s presence at the depth of the psalmist’s being is really beyond description. It is a mystery and beauty to rejoice in.
Of course, God works in many ways, and he certainly works through people. Today he calls us to be his witnesses, to help others become open to God, more reflective in life, to point towards God so that others can be enriched by him. Therefore, we actually have much to be positive about. We can’t just see today as a difficult or impossible situation for the Church and so become disillusioned but rather we must appreciate that today is a time of great opportunity, of potential. There are so many impoverished lives waiting to be enriched by the Gospel. Whatever our status in life (married, single, worker, pupil, retired, cleric etc), let us be faithful ministers of God’s love and hope to others.
Not, of course, that this is always easy. Jesus warned the seventy-two disciples that they would face rejection. Serious discipleship demands simplicity of life, single-mindedness and perseverance in times of trial. St Paul (Galatians 6:14-18) teaches that just as Jesus had been rejected by a sinful world, so now was Paul for proclaiming Christ and so will we be! Yet, the difference we can make to others by offering them Christ is too beautiful to run away from trials. And there is more! It is precisely through our own personal closeness to Christ that we too are changed – become a new creation, transformed – experiencing the deep peace and joy that comes from Christ alone. Is there a better way for any of us to live our lives – a path, Jesus promises, which carries us into heaven?
The Lord calls each one of us in different ways. Tony has felt the Lord calling him to Holy Orders as a Permanent Deacon. The Ministries of Reader and Acolyte are steps on the road to Tony’s Ordination as a deacon next year. Both of these ministries are closely united to the Liturgy and therefore to both worship of God and service of other people. Both reader and acolyte are roles closely united with the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As Tony is instituted into the ministry of reader he is encouraged to develop a love for the scriptures; and by becoming an acolyte Tony is encouraged to deepen his love of the Eucharist which, in turn, demands a greater love for others especially the poor, the sick, the outcast.
I publicly thank Tony for answering Christ’s invitation to the diaconate. I want to thank Pola, Tony’s wife, for her own sacrifices in allowing Tony to answer the call of Christ. I also thank Fr William and all the parish community of Skye for encouraging Tony. As Tony takes this important step forward please pray for him and I encourage each of you to continually draw closer to the Lord, allowing him to form you into a new creation, and so you will become greater instruments of his love and healing to others.
+ Brian McGee
St Mary’s Church, Portree, Isles of Skye 6th July 2019