Tuesday, 25 September 2012 09:21

Homily: Ashely Caldow ordained to the Diaconate

Written by Bishop Les Tomlinson
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Ordination to the Diaconate – Ashley Caldow
Saturday, 21st September, 2012

In a few moments Ashley Caldow will be invited to step forward, stand here in front of us all and, through his ordination as a deacon, commit himself as a member of that group of men whom we call the ordained ministers of our Church. He will declare before all of us his willingness to do his best to rise to the great challenges which this way of life will put before him, and through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration, the Holy Spirit will take hold of him just as the same Holy Spirit once took hold of Matthias, as is described in the Acts of the Apostles, so that the Opening Prayer we prayed at the commencement of Mass, may be achieved in that Ashely: may be effective in action, gentle in ministry and constant in prayer, thus, enabling him to rise to the challenges which his unique vocation placed before him.

As Ashley stands here before us, I would like to invite all of you to look at him carefully. I know we will all be looking at him with admiration and with gratitude for his willingness to give his life for the service of others. All of you who are his family, fellow students of Corpus Christi College, clergy and people of the Sandhurst Diocese and friends will also look at him with the eyes of friendship and love. You know Ashley to be a good and generous man, a man who is committed to serving others as Christ, our Lord served.

But this morning, I would also like to invite you to look at him with the eyes of faith. Through his ordination to the diaconate, Ashley, as well as being our friend, our relative, our seminarian, becomes something more. In the mystery of God’s love, Ashley becomes a living sign of the presence of Jesus among us in a whole new way. From now on as we look at Ashley, as we spend time with him, as we journey along together with him, we will see, if we look with the eyes of faith, something more of the mystery of the Lord’s love for us, unfolding in front of our eyes.

This is true of every Christian, of course. Each one of us is filled with the Spirit of God, each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God, each one of us is called to be another Christ to and for others. Husbands and wives are called to be living signs to each other of the love and fidelity which Christ has for his Church. Parents are called to be living signs of that unselfish love which, in imitation of Christ, puts the needs and the good of others before their own needs and desires. Religious men and women are called to be living signs of the poverty, the chastity and the obedience of Christ – his total commitment to his Father’s will. Diocesan clergy are called to live within the world a life that witnesses the example and truth of the Gospel of Christ in the celibate state; in particular, we are called to be living signs of the love of the Christ through our selfless ministry of the Word and Sacrament irrespective of how we are received. Of course, all of us are called to these different vocations precisely so that everyone, and not just married people, can see and know that fidelity is asked of us all; that everyone, and not just parents, are called to put the needs of others first; that everyone, and not just religious, are called to live lives of simplicity, openness to God’s will and profound respect for each other’s dignity; that all of us, and not just the clergy are called to a life of reflection, prayer and hospitality.

What then of deacons? To what are they called as witnesses in a special way with their lives? What is Ashley committing himself to today? Of what is he now called to be a living sign? We will hear the answer to all of this in the questions I will put to Ashley in a moment and in the Prayer of Consecration I will pray over him. We will hear about willing and generous service of the bishop and the priests. We will hear about the faithful proclamation of the faith. We will hear about a ministry of prayer on behalf of the Church and the whole world. We will hear about respect and obedience. We will hear about sincere love, concern for the poor, unassuming authority, self-discipline and holiness.

And at the end of the Prayer of Consecration, we will hear it all summed up in these words: God our Father, may Ashley imitate your Son who came, not to be served but to serve.

There it is. It is of this that the deacon is called to be a living sign. It is this which his whole life must now be about. This is what Ashley takes on today, this is what God is calling him and empowering him to be and to do - that in every encounter with him, people now encounter, in a new and deeper way than was already the case, a living image, a living icon of Jesus the servant.

Jesus is many things: he is our saviour, our good shepherd, the bread of life, the light of the world, and so much more. None of us can be on our own a full expression of the richness of Christ. It is only together, as members of his body, as the Church, that we can be what the Lord is calling us to be and needs us to be – his ongoing presence in our world. But precisely because the mystery of Christ is so rich, and precisely because the world’s need for Christ is so great, we need people who, both in what they do and in what they are, symbolize for us those aspects of the mystery of Christ which, if they are not present in our Church and in our world, will leave the Church and the world a greatly impoverished place.

Today Ashley is saying “yes” to the Lord’s invitation to be a living icon of service: humble, unselfish, faithful service. He will exercise that spirit of service at the liturgy, when he preaches God’s word, when he celebrates the sacrament of baptism, when he presides at weddings and funerals, and when he leads the community in prayer. In fact, in all the different ways in which Ashley will work with and for God’s people, he will be saying with his life, “Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and I want to be a living sign of his loving service among you.”

Those of you who know Ashley well will know the ways in which he already lives this reality. You will be able to recognize in him the gifts of sensitivity, generosity, faith and commitment to his vocation which make him a gift to the Church. By our presence here today we are committing ourselves to helping him nurture these gifts as he takes this important step.

This morning, from within the mystery of Ashley’s vocation to the priesthood, he is ordained for a ministry of service as an important step towards his goal of priesthood. His formation both in the United States and here in our Provincial Seminary, Corpus Christi College has I am sure prepared him well for this. In my conversations with Ashely he has spoken of how important the priesthood is to him and how, through a variety of experiences he has come to this point of offering himself as a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Sandhurst with the goal of serving as a priest in this Diocese, the vocation to which he believes he has been called.

As a deacon, Ashley, you are called to the ministry of service and proclamation of the Word in a new and particular way. Be confident that as you are called to share in Christ’s Priesthood through the diaconate, He who calls you strengthens you to meet the challenges you will encounter. The grace of God will be poured into your life through this ordination to enable you to be all that God is calling you to be. Open your heart to receive that gift now, and commit yourself to allowing that gift to grow and develop in you each day, so that God might be glorified and his people might have the joy of encountering Christ through you and your ministry.