There’s a beautiful part in the Rite of Ordination for deacons that is both simple and profound for us all. When the man being ordained a deacon is handed the Book of the Gospels, he is presented it and hears from the ordaining bishop, “believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach”. It’s an important part of the life of the man being ordained for service for the Church, and while he is ordained for this mission; the beautiful part of our Christian lives and of our Church is that everyone is sharing in that mission. We are living in a time when so many people dedicate their lives to helping those ordained and consecrated for that mission and serve the Church beautifully. We rejoice that so many are coming to know the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of their Catholic Christian faith and taking seriously God’s call for them to give their lives generously in so many different ways.
To read and know the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Holy Gospels and to believe what Our Lord Himself tells us, adding to it what we know is offered us as insight through the Magisterium of the Church and the traditions left for us from the Apostles and through the rich history of more than 2,000 years of Christians living as Christ. This gives us cause to believe and to share that with others, not because we have to but because we have the freedom to choose and the more we know the more it should lead us to want to choose God and His loving Divine plan for us all.
And how we know is when we all do our part and teach others. My faith is richer by those who have taught me, and while Jesus Himself encountered me in my life, I came to know Him in deeper, more profound, more loving ways by His faithful servants who taught me. Not only my theology professors and the ordained, but so many others; the people I serve as a priest who love Him unconditionally and somehow manage to encounter Him in me as priest and through the sacraments. My dear friend who brought me to Church for the first time with her and taught me how to love Jesus in the first place, and so many others who “taught” me along the way because they believed.
And to know and teach is nothing if we don’t practice this in our daily lives. We can talk about being Christian, but we must be Christian. This is essential. We must be a good example, and good Christians beget many more good Christians. Bad examples of so-called Christians do more harm than good. Of course we sin, and I sometimes wonder in my bad days or in my own limitations – did I push someone away by my actions. I know I have to have the ability to admit, certainly to God but also to my brothers and sisters that I am not a perfect Christian but my daily commitment is to want to try to be. We have to develop the good habit of apologizing and asking forgiveness, not only of God but also constantly of our brothers and sisters. If we do that, we need worry less that we won’t be good Christians; good Christians aren’t perfect but they are trying to be. That needs to be us!
On this glorious Advent day, as Jesus reminds us all to go out and do what He calls us to do: may we believe, may we teach others and may we practice what we believe and teach!.