The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 34) gives us a needed assurance: “From all their distress God rescues the
2Corinthians 11: 18-30 gives an appalling list of what Paul’s ministry cost him: labors, imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, hunger and dangers. Paul concludes, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” Why? because the true effectiveness of ministry comes, not from learning, eloquence, energy or technique, but from union of heart, mind and will with Jesus Christ. Enduring hardship and persecution brought on by our ministry — and enduring them with love — is a sign of where our heart is. It is evidence of union with Christ.
To be a “priest in the Priest” through identification with Christ is also to be a “victim in the Victim.” All ministry is a way of “dying to self” to give life to others. Jesus saved the world by offering his body on the cross. We continue his saving work by offering our bodies with his in ministry. At every Mass, when the body and blood of Christ are lifted up, we should say to the whole world in union with Jesus on the cross: “This is my body, offered for you.” To communicate divine life to others by physically expressing our faith, hope and love is to give “our flesh for the life of the world.”
Ministry can be crucifying at times. When it is, the test of our authenticity is our response: if we endure evil with love we are one with Christ on the cross. When we fail to “love back” (and who doesn’t at times?), even then we can draw consolation from ”the things that show our weakness,” because they also remind us that Christ is the only strength we rely on. And he will lift us up again: “From all their distress God rescues the just.”
To minister is to let Jesus minister in and through us. Then we realize with St. Paul, “I live, no longer I but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). But for this to be evident, we have to “die” to ourselves and to everything on this earth in order to live solely for Christ and his work.
In Matthew 6: 19-23 Jesus teaches one concrete way to do this: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” The principle behind this is, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” But the only proof we have that we have set our hearts on treasure in heaven is the visible evidence that we are not seeking treasure on earth — unless it is clear that we pursue it as a means to some goal that transcends this earth. The only way we can really know what the “lamp of our soul” is leading us to is to see what the “lamp of our body” is focused on. By the same principle we can discern what motivates our ministry.
Initiative: Be a priest. Focus with Jesus on giving life to others