In June, East Anglia celebrated the ordinations of four deacons. Once ordained, each candidate was handed the Book of the Gospels by the bishop, who said to him: ‘’Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practise what you teach.’
It is a striking and profoundly moving moment not least because, although deacons do have a special calling to make these words the foundation for their lives, so too do all of us.
This simple and ancient challenge is not just for the men being ordained but also for the men and women watching. The words push us out of our comfort zone and question us about the conduct of our lives.
First, we are challenged about our own relationship with Christ. Have we really received the Good News? In other words, have we heard it deep within our hearts and made it our own? How often do we read the Gospel and refresh ourselves in the story of Jesus’ mission?
Next, we are asked about our willingness to evangelise: to share with others what we have found in the Gospel; to bear witness in the world to Jesus Christ himself, by a life filled with faith, hope and love.
Those of you who have ever been altar servers might hear an echo here of the prayer said before Mass: “Go before us, O Lord, in this our sacrifice of prayer and praise. What we say and sing with our lips, may we believe in our hearts; and what we believe in our hearts, may we show forth and practice in our daily lives.”
Pictured above are Mike Brookes (left), Bishop Alan, Alan Hodgson and Paul Spellman after the diaconate ordinations at St Paul’s Basilica in Rome.