Today I am sharing a reflection by deacon candidate Jim Haselsteiner on our recent deacon formation weekend. Jim is a deacon candidate at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Johnson City, TN.
Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13
Several years ago my wife and I had the privilege to cruise the Mediterranean and visit Ephesus, perhaps walking along the same steps St. Paul did through the ancient city. It was fascinating and I had a feeling of awe just knowing the history that took place there and, most importantly, how Christianity was spread by those who were called to do so.
The ancient city of Ephesus played an important role in early Christianity. Both St. Paul and St. John spent time in Ephesus. It is also mentioned in Acts that St. John the Baptist’s disciples came to Ephesus after Jesus Christ’s ascension. I recall walking down the main street of Ephesus and seeing a most impressive view as I approached the library of Celsus. Shortly thereafter, I came upon another very impressive structure, the Great Theater where St. Paul preached to many.
So, with that being said, my dear fellow candidates, as our fourth year of formation comes to a close, our calling, God willing, to be ordained as deacons will be upon us before we know it. This evening’s reading by Paul to the Ephesians has a special meaning for us all, as it tells us that “Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up” Christ’s mystical body so its members can become more transformed into the very image of Christ. Wow! Think about that. Christ gives us the grace and assistance we need to help one another on the path to eternal life. But, it doesn’t come easy, as it takes effort and sacrifice.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthias. It is so beautiful how the reading and antiphon align with the day’s feast. So, what do we know about St. Matthias? According to the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias, whose name means “gift of God,” was chosen by the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following the latter’s betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent death. His calling as an apostle, as we all know, is unique in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus.
Soon after his election, Matthias received the Holy Spirit along with the other apostles. He is not mentioned again in the New Testament, but it is generally believed that Matthias ministered in Judea and then carried out missions to foreign places. Now that begs the question: How does one qualify to be an apostle or, for that matter, a prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher or a deacon?
Clement of Alexandria says that Matthias, like all the other apostles, was not chosen by Jesus not for what he already was, but for what Jesus foresaw he would become. Just like us, he was elected not because he was worthy, but because he would become worthy. Jesus chooses all of us in the same way. Christ establishes this extension of His ministry through working in each of our lives. Let’s see how this takes shape here in the two verses from Paul.
The first thing that is mentioned is how God, through Christ, has made it possible for all of His people to receive the truth they need to live right and good lives. God gave certain gifts and associated them with certain key positions in the Church. These men and women played a most important and influential part in the lives of all of God’s people and continue to do so today. As previously mentioned, the five groups listed are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Christ then equips and protects His sheep. As deacons and future deacons, I consider us as being included in this list to lead by example and spread the good news of the gospel.
Today, many Christians have lost hope by the sad things they see occurring in the world among the people of God. They think that such a grand picture of a Church is for a distant heaven. The apostle, however, does not give us this picture at all. Paul is talking about now! The time of transformation is now! We have totally missed it when we think it is for another day. For many, the goal might be just to get by rather than, as Paul states in verse 13, to “come to full stature” – in other words, grow to the fullness of Christ in our own lives. We can ask ourselves, “Are we truly seeking these things for our own lives?”
If I am to be a mature man through whom Christ fully lives, I need to be humble and focus on my growth, rather than past experience where pride may get in the way. We want Christ to be known through our lives rather than us being known. We desire God’s love to radiate to others through the way we live our lives.
Just like in the days of the first disciples, Jesus still needs witnesses today. How many people don’t know Him? How many people don’t know of His love and are still burdened by sin? We who have received the gift of faith have an obligation to share it with others. The world needs witnesses today, right now. The world needs to see lives transformed by grace, who live the faith they profess.
As deacons and future deacons, are we following our call from Christ? As we’ll soon hear in the antiphon to the Magnificat, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you and have appointed you to go forth and bear fruit, and your fruit will remain, alleluia.”
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.