Yesterday morning as I was assisting at Mass, I lifted up the Book of Gospels to proclaim the Good News. As a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church, this is one of my regular privileges. Each time I lift the Book of Gospels from the altar, I see the image of Bishop Paul Sirba speak the words he spoke at my ordination. He handed the book to me and said “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. And practice what you teach.” (See image below)
I have seen this vision and recite those words in my mind every time I lift the book at mass. I think to myself what an honor it is to have heard those words spoken directly to me, and how seriously they are to be taken. I recall fondly the face of the bishop as he spoke these words. I hear the tone in his voice – a loving tone. I see the care in his eyes – the care of a shepherd for one of his flock. I feel the concern he has for each of us as we set out on our mission in what can be an unkind world.
Presentation of the Book of Gospels
Yesterday morning at mass was no different than any other. I lifted the Book, saw the vision and heard his words. It was about a half an hour after mass concluded that I received word that my Bishop had died that morning. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Well, unexpected by us, anyway.
I mourn for him. Deeply. Yet I would not dare change the course of events. To do so would be to deny him of something he would never dream of denying me or any of his flock. It would serve only to delay his entrance into eternity…to delay his answer to God’s final call. So I also rejoice for him. He did it! He finished the race.
Now I say this to my beloved Bishop – words I am privileged to say at the end of each mass:
Go in peace, glorifying God…