Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio, or of his own initiative, Aperuit illis was published on September 30, 2019. As part of the Letter, the pope established that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time was to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.” Today is that Sunday, now known as the Sunday of the Word of God. The timing of the Letter’s publication was significant, as its initial release came on the Feast of Saint Jerome. Saint Jerome translated most of the Bible into Latin, and proclaimed, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
My assignment and service as a permanent deacon here at Sacred Heart is something that I treasure and thank God for. I am grateful to you, the parishioners here at our dynamic parish, for journeying in faith with me over these past three years. Taking on this new role in my life and my faith has been challenging, but through your prayers and support, I’ve received the grace I’ve needed to continue to serve. Many of you have asked since my appointment, “what does a deacon actually do?” A deacon is ordained for three charisms that help guide his ministry. Word of God Sunday is especially meaningful to a deacon, as proclaiming the Word is one of the charisms in which we are ordained; the others being a minister of the cup and practicing charity for the rest of our lives.
This week is the perfect time to share with you what the charism of proclaiming the Word actually means.
“The deacon participates as an evangelizer and teacher in the Church’s mission of heralding the Word. In the liturgy of the Word, especially in the Eucharist or in those liturgies where he is the presiding minister, the deacon proclaims the Gospel.” (National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and life of Permanent Deacons in the United States.)
When the bishop ordains a deacon, he gives him a Book of Gospels and says, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” I was profoundly humbled learning when deacons assist at Mass, even if it’s with the pope himself, they are to proclaim the Gospel, and at liturgies in accord with the provisions of Canon Law, they may preach by virtue of ordination.
Deacons are tasked with other designated responsibilities that relate to the Word of God. For example, at the beginning of Mass, the deacon processes with the Book of Gospels raised up in reverence, so all can see. A deacon also participates in specific penitential rites as designated in the Roman Missal. He voices the needs of the people in the General Intercessions, needs which he should have a particular and personal familiarity with from his charism and ministry of charity. During the celebration of the Mass, a deacon helps the faithful participate more fully, extending the invitation of peace, and later dismissing the community at the end of the Eucharistic Liturgy.
While these are just a sample of the greater duty set of a deacon, you can see each is related to spreading the Gospel. This is why this Word of God Sunday is near and dear to a deacon’s heart. We are all called to spread the Gospel, and to set the example by living It. As my father used to say to me, “actions speak louder than words.” As any one of us knows, oftentimes it is difficult to stick to that understanding of living the Gospel, but I work toward that each day. Focusing on, and spending time with the Living Word of God will change our hearts, and will enrich not only our own lives, but the lives of all.
Many years ago, I learned an acronym related to the Word…
B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
May we allow the Lord to inspire, encourage and strengthen us as we follow His instructions through His Word.
Peace of Christ,
Deacon Ray Ferreris
Servant for others