Father Bob Marva, OFM, pastor of St. Agnes + Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Cleveland, welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic to the parish on Feb. 6. The bishop celebrated the vigil Mass and instituted two candidates for the permanent diaconate -- Scott Cerrito of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Hinckley and Michael Costantini of St. Barnabas Parish, Northfield – in the ministry of acolyte.
The Gospel for the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time tells the story of Peter’s mother-in-law who was very ill and confined to bed. Peter brought Jesus to her house and he attracted a crowd. Despite the commotion, she was able to experience who Jesus was: the savior, the healer of both body and soul. Jesus went to the woman, took her hand and healed her. She, in turn, began to serve Jesus, the bishop said.
“Some people call this woman the first disciple because she was the first to serve Jesus,” he said, comparing this to the pattern of all conversions.
“We are spiritually ill – a sort of spiritual funk – we are in need of God, although we don’t always know it at the time. Ultimately, there are times when we wonder if there is a God and, if so, whether this God really knows us and cares about us,” he said.
“It’s sometimes at our lowest points that we finally let Jesus grasp is – take hold of us – and he helps us up. We feel new again – forgiven, loved, healed, redeemed, saved.”
Bishop Malesic said sometimes this is referred to as being born again or becoming a new creation. With this new, blessed life, people can’t help but serve God and neighbor – much like the ministry of a deacon, who serves.
“Healed, we become the hands and feet, eyes and ears of Jesus in our food pantries for the hungry, in the homes of the elderly who are feeling downtrodden because of the isolation of this pandemic. We help our children rise up in this world and we forgive those who have hurt us, called us names, prejudged us and even worked against us. This is serving the household, too. It makes our home a better place when we serve with the love of Jesus,” he said.
Cerrito and Costantini are being called to serve at the altar as acolytes, official ministers of the Church. They will bring Jesus to people through Communion. Bishop Malesic reminded them they must continue to develop their relationship with the Lord. “Only then will you come to remember always who it is you serve; you serve Jesus. You serve his household. Let us see Jesus is you – not just when you serve at Mass – but in your homes, in your places of work, in your communities, when we meet you on the streets outside.”
He also said the summit and source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.
“It is your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry and, as special ministers, to give holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick. You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him,” he said.
In performing their ministry, the bishop said the new acolytes should remember that they don’t stand above the faithful, they stand with them. “Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave the apostles at the Last Supper: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”
He also encouraged them to be like Peter’s mother-in-law who served. “So, set the table, put out the finest paten and chalice ad serve the meal of the Lord to us. We need him now more than ever.”
We become a living tabernacle but must let the door open so people can see inside, Bishop Malesic said. “Faith can transform the world if we let it out of these walls.”