‘Here I am, Lord, send me!’

Seminarian Max Gallegos ordained to the transitional diaconate

On June 1, the bishop celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, during which he ordained Max Gallegos to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, and especially Max Gallegos, again, I welcome you all to the Cathedral of St. Paul here in downtown Birmingham Alabama for the ordination to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate of Max Gallegos. In addition to the priests, deacons, and consecrated religious women and men present today, I welcome in a special way his family and parishioners from the various parishes where he has served, but most especially his home parish family at Our Lady of the Valley in Fort Payne. A further welcome to our seminarians who, providentially, continue to grow in numbers every year – thanks be to God – as these young men discern their vocation toward the priesthood. Perhaps there are some here today contemplating life as a deacon or priest. I invite you to pray to the Lord our High Priest, to open your hearts and allow Jesus to show you the beauty of this vocation, especially celebrated in this ordination Mass today. In addition, I also extend a cordial welcome to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Columbus from around our diocese who add greater dignity to our ordination celebration today. It is an honor to welcome in particular Bishop Baker and Abbot Marcus. Welcome, one and all!

The ordination to the diaconate is a big step in a young man’s life. It participates so eloquently in the fundamental call of our Lord to a young man to emulate the service and charity of the Lord and assist in the ministries of the Church. Coming as it does this year on the 1st of June, the first Saturday of the month, at a time when we ramp up our Eucharistic Revival as the pilgrimage passes through Birmingham and Hanceville in just a couple of weeks. We are also reminded, especially today on the feast of St. Justin and our celebration of the Body and Blood of our Lord – Corpus Christi Sunday – the vital significance of the Eucharist in our lives. It was our Lord Who came to serve – He humbled Himself! In our vocational journey, we, too, are called to serve one another – to open our hearts to the wounds, anguish, hurts that we see around us. We are to see in one another a glimpse, to a greater or lesser degree, of the face of Christ shining through. 

Max, in the presence of everyone here today, you make your intentions public, and the Church will accept your intention and profession and verify your vocation in this public assembly. For that reason, we should anchor our thoughts, even briefly, as we do as Christians, in the readings from God’s Holy Word which we have just heard proclaimed a few moments ago.

First, the Book of Numbers recounts our Lord’s advice to Moses – to summon the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron, the priest, as his assistants. “They shall discharge his obligations and those of the community before the meeting tent by serving at the Dwelling.” In other words, they are to see to the good order of those who approach the Dwelling. 

Second, St. Paul’s letter to Timothy outlines the pre-requisites and qualifications of those who take on various ministries as a deacon. It describes deacons who are “serious, straightforward, and truthful.” In other words, they defend and hold fast in a most diligent way to their faith, which has become for them an encounter with our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Third, the Gospel of Luke, eloquently lays out the early struggle of the Apostles. As they celebrated the Last Supper, they also became distracted by who was the greatest among them. Our Lord hastens to point out the ones who serve noting that they are the greatest.

A life of true vocational service, marked by caring, diligence, and attention to those in need, would then allow you to proclaim the goodness of the Lord to them and the entire world. Max, you are chosen especially for this. You are chosen because those qualities have been seen by those who have accompanied you in the seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and in your various ministries and engagements throughout the Diocese of Birmingham and the Columbus area. I ask that you beg the Lord in your prayers that this experience of service during this diaconal year, may give you greater thirst for serving Him, particularly and eventually as a priest going forward.

Today is also the feast of St. Justin, Martyr, whose writings, even at the beginning of the 2nd century, already give us a good glimpse into the life of Christians in the very early Church. He describes the Eucharist in very vivid terms of how the ritual has taken shape and how Mass is to be celebrated by focusing on the essentials. Every element he speaks about is accounted for in our Mass today. For our Mass is not our own creation but that of great reflection on what our Lord does for us in service – in offering Himself back to the Father through the means of bread and wine, which become the true Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was for his steadfast profession of faith, which he could not deny, or unsee, or unhear, that he became a martyr for the faith during the time of Marcus Aurelius. Today, the Mass remains as the best way that we can recall the love of Christ as servant for us today – Jesus takes flesh and dwells with us. We are not forgotten but loved with an everlasting love!

To all who are present today, I invite you to pray earnestly for Max and for the many others who may be hearing the call of the Lord in their lives. Beg the Lord that they be bold enough to respond willingly and generously to that call. By doing so, you will become part of a unique missionary team - truly missionary disciples of Christ – not only by what you say or do but by how you live and how your life exemplifies the call and reveals it to others.

As you begin this journey as a deacon, remember that you have not “arrived,” but, rather, you have “begun” to unravel the mystery of service in ministry to a Church and a world in great need today. In this chapter, the pages are still blank. As you entrust yourself to the Lord and to mission, the story of faithfulness and zealous missionary spirit will be written for others to see.

One further reminder: in the Hispanic tradition, which is part of your heritage, there is a great affection for Our Lady of Guadalupe and for St. Juan Diego. Miracles happened then, and they can happen today! She reminds us, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” Wherever there is suffering and anguish, she is there at the foot of the cross calling us to look at her Son. May she, too, accompany you to open your eyes to the vast array of needs which need the touch and embrace of God’s tender mercy. Similarly, our Church, too, is both mother and teacher to those who continue to hunger for truth, justice, and love.

Un recordatorio más: en la tradición hispana, que forma parte de tu herencia, hay un gran cariño por Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y por San Juan Diego. Entonces ocurrieron milagros. Y pueden suceder hoy. Ella nos recuerda: "¿No estoy yo aquí, que soy tu madre?".

Finally, I implore you, Max, to safeguard this call by being a true, holy, devoted son of the Church, a disciple and friend of Jesus, a son of Mary, and one who will always be ready whenever there is need to rise up and say, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” May God bless you all!