April 6, 2016
Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the April 2 ordination of Todd E. Thibault as a transitional deacon.
Mary Magdalene told Jesus’ apostles that she had seen Jesus and that He was alive. They did not believe her. Two discouraged disciples, leaving town, on their way to Emmaus, told them a similar story - that they had conversed and shared a meal with, and then recognized Jesus. Jesus’ companions did not believe those two disciples either.
Later, while they were at table, the risen Jesus Himself appeared to the Eleven, rebuking them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they didn’t believe those who actually saw Him after He had been raised from the dead. Jesus then urged them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
After all, the folks who actually spent time with Jesus - ate with Him, witnessed His healings and teachings, and called Him, “friend,” didn’t believe. Not initially anyway.
Then, given the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, look at what some fishermen could accomplish. Listen again to what we just heard from the Acts of the Apostles:
“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed.” Peter and John insisted: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
Todd, that sentiment of amazement and eager determination must lay deep within your heart today and everyday as you respond to Jesus’ call, “Follow Me.”
Such passion must energize your service of all God’s people as you give fervent witness to the Gospel you preach. Soon, through the laying on of hands, you will be empowered by God’s Spirit, as a sacred minister, to proclaim such Good News!
In his announcement of this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis said: “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!” (MV, 5) The goodness, the tenderness of the risen Lord is the message you must preach, you must live.
Pope Francis hopes this Jubilee might be a time for all of us to “rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness” (MV, 24). This is the message you are to proclaim so that others may believe that Christ is Risen and that His Mystical Body, the Church, welcomes them into the family of faith.
Todd, through your service at the Table of the Lord, through your acts of tender compassion for God’s people, you will give flesh to Jesus’ unconditional love and concern for all.
Blessed Paul VI, in Evangelization in the Modern World, wrote: “We must be possessed by the same eagerness of spirit that inspired John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, the other apostles and multitudes down through the ages” (EN, 80).
There is much to do today and there is no room, no time for sighs, moans or groans from those who minister in today’s Church. No, ours is a Gospel of Joy that must be proclaimed, must be lived. As were Peter and John, may God’s holy people, recognize you, Todd, as a companion of Jesus, not a mere acquaintance, but as one who walks with, who accompanies, one who is truly an intimate friend of Christ.
Never allow yourself to be turned away from the hope offered by the Gospel. As a deacon of the Church, you are not only a hearer of this Gospel but also its minister. Express by your actions the Word of God which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may find hope in the promises of our Risen God.
There are so many angry, frustrated people in our world who need inspiring, hope-filled leaders. The struggles are real. In the challenges ahead, empowered by God’s Spirit, radiate confident hope and joy!
As a Minister of the Word, the faithful must be convinced that you believe yourself what you are saying to them. Todd, ask yourself: “Is my life in accord with my beliefs? Is my preaching in accord with my life? Do my words inspire and challenge in such a way that they are always respectful of the dignity of the hearer?”
Such reflects an ever increasing love for God’s holy people. Your understanding of, love for and then proclamation of the Word demands, even more than study, closeness to Christ and prayer. Before becoming one who hands on the Word, you must be, in imitation of Mary, a hearer, bearer of the Word.
Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritatis, reminds deacons, indeed all who carry out a Eucharistic ministry, that they “should always be able to find in this service, exercised with care and constant preparation, the strength and inspiration needed for their personal and communal path of sanctification” (SC, 94).
Todd, your sacred ministry, lived in fidelity to God, is your path to holiness.Maurice and Pauline, Reginald and Edward, we thank you for the gift of your son and brother. This is a day of great joy for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
As you were raising your family, when you looked west and over the pond that we know and love as beautiful Lake Champlain, you probably didn’t dream that the Lord would have planned this day of blessing for your family, here in beautiful Carthage, NY.
You worked hard by the sweat of your brow, tending the land and providing sustenance for your neighbors in the Green Mountain State.
In you faithfulness to God and His Church, you have nurtured the soil for this vocation to take root.
Now, your son, through the grace of God, will provide spiritual nourishment and sustenance for our neighbors in this local Church. We are blessed. We are grateful.
Todd, in whatever pastoral setting you find yourself ministering, may those whose lives you touch exclaim, “We have seen and we believe!”