Photo: Chao Wang
The following speech was given by Deacon Kenneth Dos Santos, MIC, at a reception following his diaconate ordination on Jan. 9, 2010, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. Deacon James McCormack, MIC, was also ordained to the diaconate. The reception was held at the nearby John Paul II Cultural Center.
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Lk 1:46-47). The Magnificat of Our Lady is her response to the words of her cousin, Elizabeth, who proclaimed to Our Lady: "... blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45).
Elizabeth's words express the truth: Our Lady did, indeed, have faith that God would bring to fruition what the Angel spoke of at the Annunciation — that she would conceive and bear a Son, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Our Lady's response to Elizabeth speaks volumes. She does not exalt herself or give herself credit for anything. Instead, she praises the Lord for His greatness and for His love in sending us His only Son, our Savior.
Today, we must also rejoice with Our Lady and thank God for His love and His mercy in giving us His Son Jesus, who through His Passion, death, and Resurrection, has reconciled us with the Father. It is only through the Passion and death of Jesus Christ that the Resurrection is realized.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states "that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Mt 16:21). It is evident that this must come to pass, specifically in this way, because Jesus rebukes Peter for his words, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You" (16:22). To this, Jesus responds, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Mt 16:23).
Here we see a familiar pattern, the movement from joy to suffering and from suffering to joy. Jesus, who is consubstantial — that is, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in eternal bliss — had no need to take on a human body and therefore suffering on our behalf. But, within God's providential plan — from all eternity — was included, the redemption of mankind. He who is the second person of the Trinity, would be born of the Virgin Mary, taking on flesh, and He who was without sin took on our sins, accepting suffering, and giving His life for us on the cross. It is only in completing this mission that He truly enters into the joy of His kingdom. Mankind in a similar manner moves from the joy and original justice of Adam and Eve to the suffering and death of sin, only able to receive eternal joy through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But, out of this sacrifice — this suffering and death — comes a Resurrection, a Resurrection that makes possible eternal joy, the eternal joy to which all men are called.
We see this pattern, this familiarity with suffering and joy, in the earliest moments of our lives, in the experience of childbirth. In fact, the book of Genesis states that "in pain shall you bring forth children" (13:16). But the labor pains experienced by a woman in childbirth give way to the inexpressible joy of a mother and a father when they behold the wonder of their child for the first time. We can also see this pattern through the experience of teaching a child to walk. The parents lovingly convey their knowledge to the child, both through their example and the power of speech, calling the child in order that he will attempt to take his first steps toward them beckoned by their voices. In learning this skill, the child will stumble and fall and sometimes experience the pain that accompanies a misstep. But the parents are ever present, waiting to intercede should the child need their assistance. And the parents, as well as the child, experience joy when the child walks for the first time. However, in witnessing the first steps of a child one could be tempted to believe that when the child walks for the first time, he walks alone.
But none of us walk alone. We walk through suffering, and we walk to joy, but we never walk alone. As our Lord states in the Gospel of Matthew: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (7:11). If birth parents know how to guide and give all good gifts to their children, so much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask. We have a Father in heaven who watches over us, who guides and protects us, who comforts and leads us in suffering and in joy. And we have a loving Mother who intercedes for us and guides us always to her Son Jesus. Jesus and His Mother Mary, who are even more attentive then our birth parents, are able to recognize in us the slightest discomfort and suffering. We can see this truth in the words of our Lord Himself. "Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Lk 12:7). These spiritual parents also teach us to walk in suffering and in joy. Not alone, but in unison with them.
But how is it that God teaches us to walk? Jesus gave us His mother at the foot of the Cross: "When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to His mother, 'Woman, behold, your Son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother'" (Jn 19:26). In giving His Mother Mary to St. John, Jesus gives mankind the type of the Church: "By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to His Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a 'preeminent and ... wholly unique member of the Church'; indeed, she is the 'exemplary realization' (typus) of the Church" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 967). And just as Jesus gave us His mother to St. John at the foot of the cross — a mother who is a model for all of mankind — He gave us the Church. The Church, instituted by Christ to nurture and guide us, to impart grace into a fallen world through the sacraments, and to give us the means to live a life of virtue, so that we might finally enter into God's presence in eternal joy. It is into this Church that Deacon Jim McCormack, MIC, and myself have been ordained this day, and it is for us the source of great joy.
It is a great privilege and honor to be called by God to serve His people, to be an instrument through which God imparts His grace to His people, and to be a part of God's providential plan, enabling others through His grace, the means to walk in suffering and joy. May Our Lady intercede for us and continue to call us to conform our lives to God's will, and may we all heed and live out these words of St. Paul to Timothy: "As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing" (4:5-8).
Please pray for us and know that we have all of you in our prayers.
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Deacon Kenneth Dos Santos looks forward to ordination to the priesthood later in December of 2010 or January of 2011 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.