Everyone Gets Served
Homily for the Transitional Diaconate Ordination of Jesus Alatorre
for the Diocese of Yakima
Most Reverend Joseph J. Tyson, Bishop of Yakima
Peace be with you! Everyone gets served. That’s the underlying message of our powerful reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Everyone gets served.
Indeed, in startling frankness, the Acts of the Apostles records with directness the tensions in the early Christian community between the “Hellenists” and the “Hebrews.” The Hellenists were complaining that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution over the Hebrew widows. Scholarship suggests that the Hellenists spoke Spanish – I mean Greek – and that the Hebrews spoke English – I mean Aramaic.
You get my point! Aramaic was the mother tongue of Jesus. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the Gospel of Matthew – written in Greek – specifically slips out of Greek to note that Jesus used the Aramaic word for “Father” – “Abba” – to denote the importance of intimate prayer with God – prayer in one’s maternal first language.
Thus the interpretive phrase of this passage: “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God at table.” If Jesus insisted on opening ourselves to spiritual nourishment in one’s first language then we ought not be surprised that this be lived out in physical nourishment given in one’s first language too. As a result the list of the names of those very first deacons were Greek names, ensuring that in the daily distribution everyone gets served.
Everyone gets served. That’s the same challenge we face today here in the Diocese of Yakima. Our diocese is nearly three-fourths Hispanic. Immigration from Mexico has formed this diocese since the Second World War. People have arrived under a variety of complex and often contradictory employment and immigration rules. The result for our church is the reality that nearly 60 percent of our people attend Mass in Spanish. An estimated 70 percent of our farm laborers are undocumented. Our families fear the division and separation due to deportation.
The reverse is also true. I went to Mattawa at Christmas to preach the largest liturgy of the year: The Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mattawa has grown from 500 to 5,000 people in 10 years. Only 157 people voted in the last general election. Why? Perhaps that reason is because so few are citizens.
Yet I reminded those parishioners the importance of reaching out to English speakers who are now the minority. They didn’t chose to immigrate. But they can feel like a foreigner in their own country. You can help them. Teach them to eat pozole! Everyone gets served!
Indeed, when we say as a Church “everyone gets served” we are not talking about a multicultural appreciation of one’s particular language and culture. Rather the Church’s notion of “everyone served” moves in the opposite direction. We hear this in the words of the Eucharist: “Just as you have gather us now at the table of your Son so also bring us together…with…those of every race and tongue…Bring us to share with them the unending banquet of unity in a new heaven and a new earth, where the fullness of your peace will shine forth.” (Eucharist Prayer for Reconciliation II, 8)
In short it takes all of us to ensure that “everyone gets served.” It takes all of us whether our maternal language is Hebrew or Greek, Spanish or English to make sure that “everyone is served.” It takes all of us 1.3 billion believers around the world to show a witness that “everyone is served. It takes all of us present at this Eucharist now – living and dead – saints in heaven and faithful on earth to give a witness that “everyone is served.” It takes every language, race and culture seasoned by the Gospel of Jesus Christ into One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to bring forth the reality that “everyone is served.”
“Everyone gets served.” That’s the message Jesús Alatorre desires to convey during his time at this parish in Wenatchee in his preaching and teaching both in Spanish and in English. It’s why we are moving these transitional diaconate ordinations out of Yakima and into the local parishes where our vocations are seasoned and nurtured – great parishes like St. Joseph in Wenatchee. As ordained ministers of the Church we serve everyone.
The same is true with our Church in the field – the summer migrant ministry in Monitor so faithfully supported by this parish as well as the migrant ministry across Central Washington. Jesús Alatorre has a singular talent for bring together the simplest field workers in a spirit of joy. After our migrant Masses, it’s not unusual for us to have a large meal for the workers as well as games and a piñata. Many of us know Jesús Alatorre to be quiet and on the more reserved side. Yet seared into my memory is his animated leadership of the migrant games, his jokes and comments during the piñata swings. He comes out of himself to serve everyone and allow everyone to look a bit beyond his own personality to the friendship with Christ we seek to promote in our migrant ministry.
I am so very grateful that his mother has traveled up here today so we can thank her for the gift of her son she brings, along with the bread and wine. Her presence reminds us that Mexico comes to us here in the United States bearing gifts and that Mexico herself is assisting us to ensure that everyone is served the Body and Blood of Christ at Eucharist. May all of us imitate what we receive and leave with the mission that in the world we live “everyone gets served.” Peace be with you!