The Mission to Minister
Sunday, June 18, 2023, 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A1)
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
Inventory: What is the goal of ministry in the Church? Through all the individual acts of ministry, what is God trying to do through his Church for the human race? How is God acting on you and in you in order to save the world?
Input: The focus of the Mass today is God’s ministry: both to and through the Church. God’s ministry and ours is to bring about healing, reconciliation, and unity through love. All ministry depends on God. So, in the Entrance Antiphon we address God as our “help” and “Savior” (Psalm 27). We ask him in the Opening Prayer to help us “follow Christ” because it is only through closeness to him that we can minister as his body. To minister as Christ’s risen body, we need to act “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” And so, in the Alternative Opening Prayer we acknowledge our awareness that “selfishness can drive us apart,” and rejoice in the faith that “draws us together” as “one family” united in faith and love. The Responsorial Psalm sums it all up: “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” God has gathered us together as one flock to lead us into nourishing pastures, where we nourish each other by letting Christ be nourishing with, in and through us all. This what it means to be “priests in the Priest” by Baptism.
A “Kingdom of Priests”
In Exodus 19: 1-6 Israel is a preview of the Church: “a royal priesthood… God's own people,” sent out to “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Peter 2:9).
To be a Christian, then, is to be called to ministry. Every Christian is consecrated a priest at Baptism, when the minister anoints the baptized with chrism on the top of the head and declares, “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so live always as a member of his body.”
These words give us our “job description” as Christians. We are not just individuals involved in a “one-on-one” relationship with Jesus. We are a community. We come before God as one united body, committed to caring for one another and for the whole world as a “kingdom of priests.” “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”
Reconciled to Reconcile
In Romans 5: 6-11 Paul tells us that what “proves God’s love for us” is that Christ died for us while we were “still sinners.” Ministry is not just a matter of affirming the like-minded; it is also reaching out to those who think and act differently from ourselves. Ministry is not to exclude and push away, but to include and draw in — and explicitly those who are “still sinners.” No matter how much we or others stray and sin, the guideword of ministry is, “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” All of us are.
Laborers for his harvest
In Matthew 9:36 to 10:8 Jesus looked at the crowds and his “heart was moved with pity for them, because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” This is still true in our day. We have ordained priests and “pastors “who are “shepherds” of the parish flock. But ordained priests work mostly in churches. The “sheep without a shepherd” are those who have no one to guide and encourage them where they are most of the day: at home, at school, at work, at social functions. This is where people often feel most “troubled and abandoned,” and where we who are priests by Baptism need to be shepherds to one another. When we “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” we should ask him above all to send them into homes and workplaces, into business and politics.
To extend God’s reign into every area and activity of human life on earth, everyone who is a “priest in the Priest” by Baptism, must “proclaim the good news.” It is the role of the laity to “cure the sickness” of family life, business, and politics; to “raise the dead” who are spiritually inert; to “cleanse the lepers,” reaching out in reconciling love to those who feel rejected and alienated. It is the laity’s role and ministry and to “cast out the demons” of society’s obsession with money and power, and to proclaim an alternative to the false security these can give.
Is this something just anyone can do? No, the ones Jesus sent out were his “disciples” - that is, committed “students,” people intent on learning from him. Before we can minister as Christ, we must have the conscious experience of being ministered to by Christ. We are not just pipelines, but fountains: we provide his lifegiving water to others by filling up our own hearts and sharing the overflow.
The only words of God that we can effectively share with others are the words that have touched our own hearts (see 1 John 1:1): not abstract “doctrine” or “apologetics,” but the personal, intimate interchange that takes place between ourselves and God when we reflect and pray. We only touch others with what has touched us. If all we touch is the surface of God’s word, what we will communicate will be cold and hard. If we penetrate to Christ’s heart, what we share with others will be the warming life we have experienced with love.
Insight: What “common unity” do I experience with other people, both in and out of recognized membership in the Church? How do I act on this experience?
Initiative: Notice others’ needs and respond to them!
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry