Be effective... gentle...constant
By Bishop Terry R. LaValley
June 1, 2016
Bishop LaValley’s homily for the diaconate ordination of Michael Jablonski May 28
In our Opening Prayer today, we entreated the Lord that the new deacon may be effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer. These words express beautifully the Church’s desire that you, Michael, allow yourself to be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s Spirit so that your ministry in His Name will make a real difference in the lives of God’s holy people—their lives here on earth and into eternity—so that the example of your way of life might inspire the imitation of the faithful.
Be effective in action:
This desire of the Church assumes fruitful activity on your part—not running in circles with no direction or priorities nor just sitting around waiting for the faithful to come to you. Being effective in action assumes that you know and embrace the richness of Church teaching and that you are eager to share, to teach and proclaim what God has done for us. Such a charge assumes that you know your people and their needs, that you love and care for their wellbeing—material and spiritual—that you want to be with them, yes, even smell of them.
To be effective in action, you must be aware of the Spirit’s guidance in your ministry and of Jesus’ ever-loving Presence. Being effective in ministry demands that you continue, for a lifetime, to deepen your love of Scripture through time spent reflecting and studying the Word of God. By knowing your people and upon reflection of your own faith struggles, you will be able to apply God’s Word to the joys and challenges that they encounter in life. In this way, you will be an effective deacon and Minister of the Word.
Be gentle in ministry:
Michael, your heart must beat with the tenderness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Hearing the words of the Good Shepherd in today’s Gospel from John, you know personally, coming from a farming family, that sometimes the hired hands can be hard on the equipment and on the herd. Some feel that they have no real investment in the farm, so why give it special attention? Our God has invested the life of His very Son for the sake of the salvation of every human person. The ordained must be tender and gentle in our ministry to God’s holy people. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be firm in our teaching, but particularly during this Jubilee of Mercy, we are keenly aware that our relationship with others must reflect the mercy and forgiveness we have experienced from God. For too many months now in the public square, we have seen, increasingly, a pathetic and embarrassing display of what anger and crude behavior towards others look like. We must be kind and approachable to all those entrusted to our care, however difficult it may be, at times.
These last several years, Michael, you have engaged in considerable pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Ogdensburg from the shores of beautiful Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence Valley. You have been touched by the beauty of our land and, most importantly, you have experienced, first hand, the beauty of those who call the North Country “home.” As you have done so nicely, continue to reach out with compassion and genuine concern for the faithful. These are the encounters where you grow in holiness.
Be constant in prayer:
We can be effective in action and gentle in ministry only if our ministry is fueled by a close relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is strengthened as we share in communal worship and spend time with our people. The people of God expects its ordained ministers to be men of prayer. Michael, turn to our Blessed Mother continually for the comfort, courage and solace that only the Mother of God can offer you. Through it all, remember the words we just heard in our first reading from Jeremiah: “Have no fear…because I am with you…” Michael, be not afraid, the Lord has chosen you for ministry and we are glad, mighty glad!
In his recent Exhortation, The Joy of Love, Pope Francis, in his inspiring section on love, reminds us that “love understands, shows concern and embraces the weak.” (#97) As a deacon of the Church and Minister of Charity, this kind of love must motivate your ministry, particularly to those whose lives are especially difficulty because of poverty, addictions, violence or abuse.
Michael, should you be effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer, you will be a credible witness of Jesus Christ. You will have shown us the difference between being a hired hand and a true shepherd.
I join the faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in thanking you, Joseph and Rachel, for the wonderful gift of your son who will soon join the ranks of the ordained of the Church of Ogdensburg.
We congratulate you and Mike’s sister, Carolyn and brother Steven, on this holy and happy occasion.
Christ-led, Christ-fed, Hope-filled the North Country is blessed!