The challenging call of a deacon

By: Bp José Luis IMC (Bishop of Manzini)

Homily notes at the ordination to the diaconate of K. Dlamini
(St Ignatius of Loyola, Siphofanen)

Livi laba yinyama!

  1. A call

Most of the times, if not every time, the one being ordained chooses as the first reading the one of the prophet Jeremiah or a similar one. It places today’s celebration in the right context: “the one being ordained is answering God’s call”. There is nothing like: “I would like to be a deacon, I would like to be a priest…” During these 8 – 9 years, the Church has journeyed with Khonzumenzi discerning if God had called him.

Khonzumenzi shared with me that the reading is an expression of his confidence in the One who called him. The future is unknown and he naturally wonders: “will I be able to live as per demands of my vocation? Will I execute it according to His will?”The reading assures him protection among challenges, difficulties, pains…

 2. In the body of the Church

As I said, the Church has been discerning if he has been called by God because this is a call in the Church.

We must admit, though, that when we talk about “the Church”, each one of us might have a different idea of what the Church is.

  • For some, the Church is “the bishop”. At times of a national crisis some people cry saying: “the Church is very quiet”. They do not mean the priests, the religious, the laity. The only one they have in mind is “the bishop”. I dream with the day when the whole body of the Church would come together and reflect on what God tells us during times of national crisis;
  • For some the Church is like an ATM. They belong to the church but only remember the Church when there are financial problems. At that time they go to the priests, the sisters or the bishop asking for financial support;
  • Some other seem to look at the Church as if it was a supermarket where they go only when they need something. Like we go to a shop when we need bread and milk, others go to Church when they need to be baptised, get married or celebrate a funeral;
  • Some others see the Church as an employment agency. They join a certain Church looking forward to get a job or a tender;
  • Others, instead, they see the Church as their family as one young person told me: “My Church is my family” and they see her as God’s hand of love and mercy.

Khonzumenzi chose words from Paul as our second reading. Paul loves to present the Church as a body. Like a body is one but has different members and each one of them is important for the life of the body, so is the Church. We are one body with different calls and all of us are important.

The head is important in the body but can hardly go anywhere without the feet. The feet might take you places but hands are great at showing love and mercy. Therefore all of us are important in the body of the Church.

Paul’s image also reminds us that the whole body suffers when any part of the body is sick. Whenever we have a toothache the whole body feels it. Also in the Church, whenever someone just stays home or comes to church without really wanting to commit himself/herself, the Church suffers.

Hope and pray we will more and more treasure this image of the Church as a body. It is for the service of this body that Khonzumenzi today is being ordained a deacon.

  1. Because it is God who calls us, it is also him who tells us how to do it

Many times we look at a deacon for the service he does: he baptises, celebrates marriages, serves at the altar, preaches… While all this is true, I would like us today to see him in his deeper call: to remind us of Jesus who has come not to be served by to serve.

A deacon reminds us that this is the way every Christian is called to follow. Today’s words from Matthew are powerful and challenging. Jesus says:

But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.

But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom* for many.”

Khonzumenzi is aware that he is now being placed in a position of power and he chose today’s gospel aware the way power is exercise in the Church. It cannot be like in the way of the great ones who make their authority over the people felt.

A deacon challenges every Christian to exercise his or her power in the way Jesus’ did because we carry his name. It cannot be that we accept to serve in Church but believe it is OK to oppress others outside the Church. Christians make Jesus’ way their own way of life no matter where they are.

Wish one day we would be able to come together as Christians and share how each one of us live these words where we are and in the call we have received: as a bishop, a priest, a parent, a member of any government, of the business community, of the security forces, an employer or an employee… May Khonzumenzi’s way of exercising the power placed on him help all of us in the Christian community.

Photos of the event