Diakonia: A Revolution of Tenderness
The Holy Spirit, like tongues of fire, reignites our hearts to burn again with love and hope.
The risen Jesus comes through the locked doors of every heart and breathes courage, forgiveness, and possibility. His breath pushes out fear, uncertainty, grief, regret and fills up that space with the fire of the Spirit. It is a fire that opens doors, a fire that lights a path forward, a fire that leads to action. The action of the Spirit is always diakonia -- an action of tender, compassionate service to the people right in front of us. The life of Jesus was diakonia -- washing the disciples feet, healing the broken, feeding the crowds, releasing those held captive by shame, fear, or illness. All through the gospels Jesus shows us his mission of being the servant to all, and each person he touched was invited to follow him in serving others. Bartimaeus regained his sight and immediately followed Jesus on the way -- the way of diakonia. Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree and into a new life of serving the poor.
When Jesus breathed on the disciples in the upper room at Pentecost he commissioned his followers to continue his mission of diakonia. Like the disciples in that Upper Room, Jesus has breathed on each one of us in baptism and confirmation. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate in the United States we appreciate those who seek to live out this call to diakonia in an ordained ministry, but even more importantly we shine a light on the call to every disciple of Jesus to continue his mission.
Diakonia, the mission of Jesus, is the mission of our Church. Deacons have an ordained ministry to live this mission, but each of us is anointed to live this mission of action, as well. Like those first disciples who received the Spirit and immediately opened the locked doors where they were hiding and went out to bring the love and forgiveness of Jesus into the world, we are invited out of our Churches into a broken world. The news is filled with stories of pain, grief, anger, and animosity in our country and our world. In our parish collaboratives we sometimes face conflict and loss, uncertainty and change, as together we try to find new ways to live and share our faith. It can become easy to lose our energy, to sink into discouragement, and even lose hope. And then Jesus breathes into us again and the Holy Spirit, like a strong wind, blows away our despair. The Holy Spirit, like tongues of fire, reignites our hearts to burn again with love and hope.
Like Jesus, our own ministry of diakonia takes place along the road of our life -- at home, in our community, during our commute, at work and at play. How will our world know the love of Jesus if we do not radiate that love in every interaction we have with our family, our neighbors, and our coworkers? How will the world experience the peace of Christ in their hearts if we don't carry that peace in our own hearts? How will the world learn that forgiveness is the revolutionary love of God that can change everything if we don't forgive those who have hurt or betrayed us and we don't open our own hearts to accept forgiveness?
The Holy Spirit is divine love that can set the world on fire. Each one of us can begin to light this fire of change and be a carrier of the winds of transformation in our Church and our world. This is the revolution of tenderness that Pope Francis preaches. It is the tenderness of listening to one another with a soft heart and seeing every person as a sacred creation of God. It is the active tenderness of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, the refugee, the immigrant, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. This is diakonia, the mission of Jesus to be a servant to our broken world, and we are infused with the breath of God to continue this mission by going out each day to set the world on fire with a revolution of tenderness.
DEACON DAN BURNS SERVES AT ST. MARY-ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA PARISH IN CHARLESTOWN. THIS REFLECTION IS ONE IN A SERIES ACKNOWLEDGING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RESTORATION OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IN THE UNITED STATES AND EXPLORING THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO DIAKONIA FOR THE CHURCH AND ALL DISCIPLES.