Bp. Mark J. Seitz Diaconate Ordination – Frank Hernandez
June 29, 2015 Nuestra Señora de la Luz
Be a Living Stone Built on the Rock of Peter’s Faith
How wonderful that today, on this Feast of the two key people upon whom Jesus chose to build his Church, that we would be celebrating the Ordination to the Diaconate of one of our own, Frank Hernandez. Today we are connected in a real way, a tangible way, with this foundation. When Peter teaches in his letter that we are to be like “living stones, being built into a temple.” He means the Church is far more than an abstract set of ideas. She is built of us—built of you, Frank.
When God chose to create a holy People, the Church, he didn’t simply send a manual. He sent his only Son, who became one of us. His Son chose the Apostles, with Peter at their head upon whom he said he would build his Church. From the Cross he gave birth to his new Body and on Pentecost he breathed life into her.
Everyone who is Baptized has a part in that new Body, but since it is an ordered Body, God chooses certain ones to receive a special transformation into a living sign for the rest of us to see. Certainly with your cooperation, but especially through his grace, Frank, you become “sign person” today. By receiving this first degree of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Christ conforms you to himself as a visible sign of his loving service. You will reflect this service by your acts of charity, by celebrating Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals; by bringing Communion to the sick and homebound and Viaticum to the dying, by assisting at Mass and preaching and by leading God’s people in prayer.
But the most important work you will be doing in God’s name will be even more profound than these public actions. Your most important accomplishments will not be in any actions at all, but in your person itself, in your very being. Peter left his father, his wife and family, his boat and his nets and followed Jesus. Paul changed the whole course of his life from being a persecutor of the Church to the point where he could say, “Now it is no longer I who live; it is Christ living in me.”
This is that day for you, Frank. You have heard me say before I think that priests (and bishops) should celebrate the day of their Ordination as Deacons in a special way because on that day we laid it on the line and God accepted our offering. On this day you will promise a life-long obedience to me and my successors as to Christ—to place yourself completely at God’s disposal. On this day you promise, before God and His People, to live the life of a deacon faithfully upholding the mystery of faith and proclaiming it, prayerfully conforming your life to the example of Christ. On this day you promise to be a person of the word of God—believing what you read, teaching what you believe and practicing what you teach.
Perhaps the most powerful way you will, in your very self, become a sign of the presence of God in our world is by your promise of celibacy. Many in the world today believe chaste celibacy is impossible—that being sexually active is a requirement for anyone who wishes to be happy and fulfilled. And we would have to agree—this life is impossible if we are left to ourselves and our own strength. But, with grace, all things are possible—and you will be a living sign of that grace and power of God in our midst! Your joyful, committed, celibate life will be a great encouragement to those who are single and struggling to remain chaste. Your life will be a gracious counterpoint to holy married couples, reminding them of the special beauty of their life-giving complementarity in the family, which you today dedicate your life to serve.
As you look back upon your life, Frank, it is as though you can look back down the mountain trail and see how it has cut across various ridges and made many sharp turns. As you consider your early family life and your first encounters with the living God within your family—as you consider your studies and your love of music, and the first thoughts of the possibility of another plan the Lord may have had for you—a chance to make your very life a song of praise to God—I have no doubt there were many times when you were unsure where the path was leading. (Were you on the right trail or were you lost?) Today after these many years of formation and discernment, in a definitive way, you encounter Christ just like Peter did. Today, through the action of Christ’s body, the Church, and in me (unworthy though I am) whom the Lord has chosen as his representative, Christ says to you “no mere man has unfolded this calling in your life, but your heavenly Father.”
Today God chooses you for his service. Today he makes you, in your very person, through the laying on of hands, a sign of Christ’s presence in our midst. Stay close to Him! Seek his help daily to make this calling a lived reality! Give yourself generously to God’s service! Be that living stone, built upon the rock of Peter’s faith!