Pope: Whoever proclaims Jesus is called to serve and whoever serves announces Jesus
At the Jubilee of Deacons, Pope Francis noted that being both apostle and servant means being "two sides of the same coin". Whoever serves should not be “a slave to his own agenda”; instead, he should “be ever ready to deal with the unexpected” as well as “God’s constant surprises”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – This morning Pope Francis celebrated a special jubilee for deacons in St Peter’s Square. Thousands of them were present in the square along with some 20,000 faithful.
In his address, the pontiff said, "Whoever proclaims Jesus is called to serve and whoever serves announces Jesus". Indeed, being both "apostle and servant" means being “two sides of the same coin”.
Focusing on how deacons must express themselves, he noted, “if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.”
The pontiff went on to list the elements that prepare people to serve. The first one is being available. “A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would.”
“One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises. A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest.”
Putting aside his text, the pope noted, "The servant is not bound by schedules. It hurts me when I see schedules, ‘From this hour to that hour’, in parishes. The door is not open. There is no priest; there is no deacon to greet people. . . . We must have the courage to put schedules aside.”
The second element is meekness, which “is one of deacons’ virtue,” he said without reading from his text, “when he serves and is not parroting priests.”
As an example, the Holy Father cited the centurion from today’s Gospel (Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, C, Luke 7:1-10) who humbly asked Jesus to heal his sick servant.
“Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt. He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house. Instead, he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss.”
The centurion “acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is ‘meek and humble of heart’ (Mt 11:29). For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us.”
“He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve. These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26). . . . He never shouts, ever.”
The third element is a “healthy heart”, which comes from a “constant dialogue with Jesus.”
“Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve. Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly. To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened. We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15).
“Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.
“In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.”
Before the end of the Mass and the recitation of the Angelus, the pope thanked all the deacons who "came from Italy and other countries. Thanks for your presence here today, but most of all for your presence in the Church. "
The pontiff also announced "a special prayer for peace with, as main protagonists, children” from the Christian communities of Syria, both Catholic and Orthodox, on 1 June, International Children's Day.
"Syrian children,” he said, “will invite children from around the world to join their prayer for peace."