Four years ago today (at about this hour), I (along with 3 others) was ordained to the sacred order of deacons in Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
So, how has my understanding of the diaconate grown in the last four years? I'd understood the deacon as servant and servant leader who raises up others in ministry. I'd understood the need to minister on the edges or margins of society - particularly among those in prison. Ever since Kairos #13 at the Beto unit in Texas (November of 1995), I've had a special place in my heart for visiting Jesus Christ in prison and introducing others to Jesus in prison.
On if the biggest things I've come to understand in the four years since I've been ordained is that the deacon is (or should be) the prophetic voice in our Churches today. By "prophetic" I don't mean telling the future or leading the Church into some new future, but I mean reminding the Church of her covenant with God. The prophets in the Old Testament always called Israel back to her covenant with YHWH and deacons are to do that today. We see this, liturgically, in the deacon's responsibility for the Prayers of the People. Deacons remind the Church of her responsibilities to those who cannot speak for themselves and that the Church's members will easily overlook. Deacons are not just to care for the poor, the sick, the lost, those in prison, or "the least of these." Deacons are to remind the Church to care for the poor, sick, lost, prisoners, and "the least of these."
I don't fully understand what it means to be God's deacon and I don't know what God has in store for me, but I do know (I faith) that God has better in store for me that I can wish for and that He will continue to teach me what it means to be His deacon.