Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Diaconal Ordination of Austin Hoodenpyle, Randolph E. Hopkins, and Brandon LeClair

May 21, 2022
St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church
Flower Mound, Texas

Numbers 3:5-9
Psalm 89:21-22, 25, 27
Romans 12:4-8
John 15:9-17

“The Levites shall discharge the obligations of Aaron and those of the whole community before the tent of meeting by maintaining the tabernacle. They shall have responsibility for all the furnishings of the tent of meeting and discharge the obligations of the Israelites by maintaining the tabernacle. You shall assign the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they have been assigned unconditionally to him from among the Israelites.”

God is the God of the Truth, not of falsehood. God is the God of love, not of selfishness. God is the God of order, not of chaos. These three divine characteristics have been gradually revealed as part of God’s saving plan. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were expelled from Eden, God pursued them and does so with us their descendants when we sin and alienate ourselves from God. These three divine characteristics are revealed throughout salvation history beginning in the Old Testament and culminating in the revelation of Jesus as God’s own Son. Jesus established His Church and shed His Blood for her salvation as part of the revelation of His Father as the God of truth not of falsehood, as the God of order not of chaos, and the God of love not of selfishness.

After God led His chosen people out of slavery into the Promised Land, He willed, that for the salvation of human beings, He be worshipped and offered sacrifices by His chosen people to prepare human beings to be restored to the right relationship with Him. This led to the establishment of the Temple where the descendants of the first-born son of Aaron would serve as High Priest in offering Him sacrifice, the other sons of Aaron would serve as priests to assist the High Priest in offering the sacrifice, and the sons of Levi and their descendants would serve the priests and care for the tabernacle of the Temple. The mark of the priests of the Old Covenant was sacrifice, while the mark of the Levites was service. The two were separate and not to be confused with each other.

            This Old Covenant hierarchy of High Priest, Priest, and Levite foreshadows the New Covenant hierarchy of Holy Orders of the Church: Bishop, Priest, and Deacon. The Old Covenant was hereditary according to family bloodlines and tribal membership. The hierarchy of the Church is not hereditary but is by call and charism, determined by the Blood of Christ — Priest and Victim, Servant and King. The hierarchy of the Old Covenant was provisional in preparing for the coming of Christ who established His Church for the salvation of every human being. God is the God of Truth, not of falsehood.

The hierarchy of the Church reveals God as the God of order, not of chaos. Yet, this hierarchy is established in and by Christ, who came to serve and not to be served and to lay down His life in sacrificial love for our salvation. Thus, service and sacrifice are fused together in Christ’s priesthood, so a man is first ordained to be a deacon before a priest so that when a priest he is always called and ordained first to be a minister of charity in the image and likeness of Christ the Servant. A man is ordained a deacon before he is ordained a priest or a bishop because Christlike service must permeate the sacrifice offered by the priest and the pastoral oversight offered by the bishop in whose ordination rite is referred to as “high priest” and “shepherd.” For as just proclaimed in the second reading from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ — and individually parts of one another.” God is the God of love, not of selfishness.

There is an aggressive movement today in secular society to replace the hierarchy of government set by the just rule of law with anarchy. This results in tyranny of an elite few or mob rule by many. This attitude also confronts the Church today in her mission as too many Catholics absolve themselves from the authentic teaching of the Gospel and the disciplines of the Church in favor of their own private opinions. In doing so, they forge their own private brand of Catholicism devoid of service and sacrificial love but replete with anger and narcissism.

Such movements are not new and have crept into the Church previously. Saint Clement of Rome in the first century was asked to intervene in a destructive schism within the Church at Corinth where a group of dissidents fomented dissent against the hierarchical nature of the Church in favor of a more dynamic experience of religion and liturgy. These people held that their private religious experience, and their elite, specialized knowledge should take precedence over the Church’s liturgical ministries and drive the Church’s mission. This resulted in a destructive sense of egalitarianism.

Commenting on this letter of Saint Clement, Pope Benedict XVI taught, “The clear distinction between the laity and the hierarchy in no way signifies opposition, but only this organic connection of a body, an organism with its distinct functions. The Church, in fact, is not a place of confusion and anarchy where one can do what one likes all the time: each one in this organism, with an articulated structure, exercises his or her ministry in accordance with the vocation he or she has received.” God is the God of order, not of chaos.

It is the special responsibility of each of us men who are called and ordained to Holy Orders, beginning but not ending with the diaconate, to live a life so centrally devoted to Christ that the character of the authentic nature of ministry and sacrificial love of the Holy Priesthood, both in liturgy and in service, should never be obscured or confused by a grandiose lifestyle of selfish entitlement.

In a few moments you will make two promises to me and to my successors as bishop of Fort Worth: one of chaste celibacy and one of obedience. The promise of chaste celibacy makes present the love of Christ — for “no one has greater love than this — to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The promise of obedience makes present the service of Christ — who came not to be served but to serve. You make these promises with God’s grace, having discerned with the Church your call from Christ to follow Him in service and in sacrificial love. There will be times when these promises will not be easy to live, times when you come to know that they are impossible to live without the grace of friendship with Jesus who never abandons us. He offers you this friendship and strength in the sacred commitment you make today to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Prayer for yourselves and others is essential to keep Christ central in your lives and to foster the faithful friendship that He offers you.

Dear Sons, you are about to serve at the altar at the source and summit of our faith — the Eucharist.In this service, you will continually be nourished by Christ’s sacrificial love and, God willing, be further formed as servants of His sacrificial love in preparation for your life and ministry as ordained priests.May this Eucharistic celebration of your ordination to the diaconate help you to cherish that it is Jesus who has called you as friends and invites you to lay down your life with Him for His friends. He no longer calls you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. He has called you friends, because He has told you everything He has heard from His Father. God is the God of the Truth, not of falsehood. God is the God of love, not of selfishness. God is the God of order, not of chaos.

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