By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Deacon candidate Ryan Burchett described a sense of poignancy in the quiet but joyful celebration of the institution of seven men, including himself, into the ministry of lector during this time of pandemic.
Hearing the Word of God is so important at all times, but the void the pandemic has created in some people’s lives makes the proclamation of the Gospel even more urgent, Burchett believes. “We still have Jesus,” he said. The Word of God is proclaimed every day. “As lectors, we make that an important part of our lives.”
Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Mass during which the Institution of Lectors took place July 12 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The institution ritual followed the bishop’s homily, which focused on hope in the midst of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic.
One at a time, each candidate — Burchett, Kent Ferris, Andy Hardigan, Ángel Hernández, Gary Johnson, Mike Linnenbrink and Andrew Reif — approached the foot of the altar. Bishop Zinkula held a Bible and invited each candidate to hold on to it. The bishop prayed: “Take this book of holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God so that it may grow strong in the hearts of the people.”
In his homily, Bishop Zinkula asked the small gathering of deacon candidates and some of their immediate family members: “Do you know the definition of a deacon, preacher, lector, baptized believer, disciple of Christ?” The bishop answered his own question: “One poor beggar telling other poor beggars where they found food.”
The bishop shared where he found food in that day’s Gospel passage about the Word of God and the parable of the sower, reflecting on sower, seed and soil as elements of hope.
“Focusing on the sower, we discover that God is an extravagant sower. He sows seeds everywhere and sows his Word on everyone, even though he knows it won’t all take.” Hope comes in knowing that “at least some of God’s Word will land on you and me, whether we deserve it or not.”
Focusing on the seed, the bishop said, “even though much of God’s Word falls on deaf ears, it ultimately does accomplish its purpose. There is some good soil after all. Jesus’ preaching of God’s Word to us and our efforts at spreading the Word to others eventually will bring forth abundant fruit.”
Focusing on the soil, the bishop reflected on “those parts of each of us that are open, or not open to receiving the Word of God.”
“The seed sown in our minds and hearts will get us through this pandemic if we let it take root in us,” the bishop said. “The Word of God will give us hope and joy and bring out the best in us as we confront our fears and anxieties in this challenging time.”
“As disciples of the Word of God, bearers of the Word, doers of the Word, sharers of the Word, proclaimers of the Word, preachers of the Word, may we be poor beggars telling other poor beggars where we found food. And may there be a rich, abundant and miraculous harvest!”
Reflecting on his discernment of a call to the diaconate, Linnenbrink said the bishop’s analogy of one poor beggar helping another poor beggar find food, resonated with him.
For Hardigan, this milestone on the journey serves as a reminder “to go out and preach the Good News of the Gospel in all our actions and in our deeds.”
“I never thought about connecting seeds with hope,” Johnson said. “I think through this process we started out as seeds, growing as candidates, and planting seeds for the future.”
Institution to the ministry of lector continues the process of discerning the call to the diaconate, Reif said. “We’re still going day by day to make sure that what we are doing is what God has in mind for us.”
Hernández said he never dreamed that one day he would be discerning a call to the diaconate. “Today was very joyful for me and my family. We have to listen to God.”
Ferris said he has a deeper “appreciation of the responsibility of being part of a ministry of helping the Word of God to grow strong in the hearts and minds of his people.”
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