Immersed in Christ: July 25, 2020
Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
also, Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.
(Responsorial: Psalm 126)
In 2Corinthians 4:7-15 Paul pinpoints the essence of Christian ministry: it is transparency. He says we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” We are “constantly being given up to death... so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Real Christian ministry is not what we do; it is what we let Christ do in us and through us. The essential act of ministry is surrender. Its “load bearing” prayer is “Thy will be done,” in me, through me, by me, here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Just before this passage Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.... For God... has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” And the goal is “so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” Hallowed be thy Name!”
A fellow Jesuit once told Father Joe Doyle, an extraordinary spiritual guide and director of retreats, that he didn’t have confidence directing retreats because “I feel I don’t know what I’m doing.” Joe’s answer was, “That’s when I have the most confidence: when I don’t know what I’m doing.” He was thinking like Paul: “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, to make it clear that its surpassing power comes from God and not from us.” That is the authentic experience of ministry.
Matthew 20:20-28 gives us the key experience of inauthentic ministry: it is anything self-serving, especially any exercise of ministry that seeks prestige and power. That is what the mother of James and John, Peter’s fishing partners nicknamed by Jesus the Boanerges (Sons of Thunder), was asking Jesus to give them. Seeing her in action, we know where their thunder came from! 1
Jesus turned their fault to our gain. He gave us a fundamental principle that should (but doesn’t) eliminate all pomp, protocol and “careerism” in the Church:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant....
If we notice ambition in the priests and bishops, we should remember that they come out of the same culture as the laity, and carry the same distortions into ordination that laity carry into marriage and business. What takes a military, corporate or just “stuck up” face in laity takes a “clerical face” in them. Knowing the allure of prestige and power, we should fervently join in the Mass prayer for “our pope, our bishop, and bishops and clergy everywhere.” They need it.
Initiative: Treat prestige and power like cancer. If inoperable, keep in remission.