Diakonia: A Revolution of Tenderness
On May 26, outside the Centro de Santa Clara on Grand Street in Brockton, approximately 200 people gathered in prayer to begin what has become an annual tradition in the city of Brockton, A Walk for Peace to build a Brockton Without Violence. Organized by members of Grupo Familia de Nazare, a Cape Verdean community of St. Edith Stein Parish in Brockton, this walk seeks to accomplish two things: first to change the hearts of those who perpetrate violence and secondly, to stand with and for those who are victimized by the many forms of violence that plague our homes, schools, and neighborhoods. As one of the deacons who serve at St. Edith Stein Parish, it has been a joy and a blessing to participate in this annual walk.
As the walk began, a reporter from the local newspaper asked me a simple and a direct question, "Does this walk, and others like it really matter?" I answered the reporter affirming that what we do matters. What we do is an act of solidarity with all those who are silenced and paralyzed by violence. What we do is a sign to all those who perpetuate violence that we care about our city, we care about our families, and we care about our children. What we do is also a sign to those who perpetrate violence that there is a better way to live and love in the world -- the way of peace. Love matters and love in action is diakonia. Inspired by the way our Lord loved while still in the world, we build peace by the way we love each other in tenderness and mercy.
The message that love matters underlies the Good News that Jesus announced upon entering the synagogue in Nazareth. To the poor, Jesus' diakonia reveals that love matters by the way he brings glad tidings; to those held captive, Jesus reveals that love matters by the way that he brings freedom; to those who are darkened by blindness, Jesus reveals that love matters by the way he refocuses their vision on beauty, goodness, and truth; to the oppressed, Jesus reveals that love matters by the way he unbinds their chains; and to all longing to hear good news, Jesus reveals that love matters by the way he proclaimed the Gospel of his love and the nearness of God's kingdom.
By being with us, Jesus reveals that we matter to him and God sees every suffering heart and hears every cry for help. By bringing glad tidings to the poor, Jesus makes present for us a God who cares, a God who serves, and a God who saves. It was for these reasons that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent reminder of who the Church is called to be for the world. By embracing our identity as servants and walking with those who suffer, we reveal that love matters and that God cares.
Halfway along the walk I was joined by a young woman from Latin America. Without shame, the woman tapped my shoulder and said that this walk was a miracle. Turning her eyes to mine she said that this walk gave her hope against the violence that blackened her right eye. Looking directly into her eyes, I saw the deep black and blue bruises she suffered because of the violence done to her by another.
Tragically, this woman is not alone. If current statistics are true nearly one-third of all women and one-quarter of all men suffer domestic violence. Walking with her I saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes. In her moment of pain, she knew she was not alone and was able to walk forward with a renewed sense of dignity -- love matters.
Today it is the diakonia of Christ, powerfully present in each baptized Christian, that gives glad tidings to the poor. This love still touches wounded hearts, broken bodies, and hungry souls. Why do we hold out hope for some miracle from on high when the Holy Spirit empowers each of us to work small miracles of love from within? Does what we do matter? Amen, Amen, I say to you, love matters.
DEACON CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY IS ASSIGNED AS DEACON TO THE TRI-PARISH BROCKTON COLLABORATIVE AND DIRECTOR OF FORMATION FOR THE PERMANENT DIACONATE. 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.