The Task of Ministering to Others ( For pastors, priests, deacons, elders, and all who serve in the church)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2 to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3 Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
The Good Shepherd does not demand that shepherds lay down their lives for a real flock of sheep. But every spiritual shepherd must endure the loss of his bodily life for the salvation of the flock, since the spiritual good of the flock is more important that the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the salvation of the flock. This is why the Lord says: The good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his physical life, for his sheep; this he does because of his authority and love. Both, in fact, are required: that they should be ruled by him, and that he should love them. The first without the second is not enough.
Christ stands out for us as the example of this teaching: If Christ laid down his life for us, so we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
From an exposition on John by Saint Thomas Aquinas, pastor (Cap. 10, lect 3)
I received the quote from Thomas Aquinas from a friend who I have never met, yet we feel towards each other like brothers. He is an older priest in Sicily, just about to turn 80, who still serves a parish. With the help of google translate, we communicate as we can.
Maybe he sent this to me because of my sermon yesterday, on the passage from Romans above. Maybe it was his reading this morning at Mass, or in his private prayer and devotional time. I don’t know. But on Monday, it is a good, no a very good reading for all of us who serve parishes, whether we are volunteers or paid, ordained ministers or lay ministers. As we call our group of pastors, deacons, elders at our parish – the diakonos, simply meaning the servants.
We are called to live sacrificially, yet, eventually we find it is not so sacrificial. We give of our time, our talents, and our treasure (or give up the opportunity to obtain these things for our own use) to those whom we serve, those who become our children in the faith. My friend, Fr. Giuseppe, has spent his life as a celibate priest, and yet the pictures of his parish show him with his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the faith. Those pictures show a love and care for my friend that is incredible.
But still we are called to sacrifice, our all, our lives, our hearts, Paul would even have sacrificed his own soul ( if he could have) , in order that these people know Christ. In order that this is not just book knowledge, but deep intimate knowledge of His love. The kind of knowledge that in awe leads to worship, that leads to adoration.
It’s a challenge and blessing because in sacrificing these things, we have to also give up our pride, our vanity. We have to remember that they and we are broken people, needing Christ’s healing. We have to be slow to anger, quick to forgive. Quick to apologize and make things right, long-suffering and patient to guide them toward the repentance they so need. This is the laying down our lives that Aquinas talks about – perhaps not being physically nailed to the cross, but spiritually, and emotionally, and often figuratively, as we work until we are exhausted and more.
It is an impossible task, this being examples to our flocks. Impossible save one thing. We have a God who answers our cry for mercy, who is our example, who doesn’t lord it over us, but serves us in love. That is why the task is all gospel, not law, because we encounter and need Christ in every moment, in every sacrifice.
May we follow the examples of those who have served before, who followed the examples of Christ.
Posted on August 25, 2014, in Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged call to ministry, Chief Shepherd, deacons, elders, living sacrifice, Ministry, monday, pastors, priests, sacrifice, Saint Thomas Aquinas, shepherd, sunday school teachers, The Good Shepherd. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.