Calling all Deacons! – The Authority of Service

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The Holy Father’s Angelus message centers around today’s passage from the Gospel of Mark in which a man with an unclean spirit is cleansed by Jesus.

Benedict XVI made a remarkable comment on the nature of authority. We all have heard similar comments before, but it bears repeating, especially for us deacons.

Here it is in the original Italian:

 L’autorità divina non è una forza della natura. È il potere dell’amore di Dio che crea l’universo e, incarnandosi nel Figlio Unigenito, scendendo nella nostra umanità, risana il mondo corrotto dal peccato. Scrive Romano Guardini: «L’intera esistenza di Gesù è traduzione della potenza in umiltà… è la sovranità che qui si abbassa alla forma di servo» (Il Potere, Brescia 1999, 141.142).

Spesso per l’uomo l’autorità significa possesso, potere, dominio, successo. Per Dio, invece, l’autorità significa servizio, umiltà, amore; significa entrare nella logica di Gesù che si china a lavare i piedi dei discepoli (cfr Gv 13,5), che cerca il vero bene dell’uomo, che guarisce le ferite, che è capace di un amore così grande da dare la vita, perché è l’Amore. In una delle sue Lettere, santa Caterina da Siena scrive: «E’ necessario che noi vediamo e conosciamo, in verità, con la luce della fede, che Dio è l’Amore supremo ed eterno, e non può volere altro se non il nostro bene» (Ep. 13 in: Le Lettere, vol. 3, Bologna 1999, 206).

Here is my English translation (bold print mine):

Divine authority is not a force of nature. It is the power of the love of God that creates the universe, incarnating himself in his Only-begotten Son, lowering himself to our humanity, healing the world corrupted by sin. Romano Guardini writes: “The entire existence of Jesus is a translation of power into humility… it is the sovereignty that here is lowered to the form of a servant.” (The Power, Brescia 1999, 141.142)

Often for man authority means possession, power, dominion, success. For God, however, authority means service, humility, love; it means entering into the logic of Jesus who bowed down to wash the feet of his disciples (cf John 13:5) who searched for the true good of humanity, who healed the wounded, who is capable of a love so great to give his life, for he is Love. In one of her Letters, St. Catherine of Siena wrote: “It is necessary that we see and know, in truth, with the light of faith, that God is supreme and eternal Love, and he wants nothing else but our well-being.” (Ep. 13 in: The Letters, vol. 3, Bologna 1999, 206)

The themes of service, self-effacement, love and healing run through the nature of authority. While these are truly Christian, meant for all the baptized, and truly a reflection of human nature and human development over time, they are also revealed themes, truths we could only really grasp fully through the revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ, for Jesus is the full revelation of God. Through him, we know God, for he is God incarnate. He is God made visible.

The whole of Jesus’ life was a life of service, love, and yes, divine authority, indeed “the translation of power into humility.”

Jesus’ authority is keenly expressed in today’s Gospel when he commands the unclean spirit to silence and  departure. His authority is seen in all its glory in his death and resurrection. His authority is poignantly displayed in his washing of the feet of his disciples and in his healing of those who came to him in faith.

We deacons must reflect deeply on these themes if our diaconal lives are to be meaningful, and if we are to live fully the calling we have received. It is our challenge. It is our most effective preaching. It is constitutive of the deacon’s character, so irrevocably imprinted in us.

Authority….. do you see your ministry as a ministry of healing, of washings, of witness (martyrdom) to the presence of a loving God among us, as a translation of power into humility?

God bless all of my brother deacons today!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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