by Henry Penner
Our personal ministry in the church (and outside for that matter) is how we become stewards of ourselves within the Church Universal. That ministry has so many facets; so many different opportunities. It is good to help with our pledge of money as we are able, but I believe our time and talent are of equal or even more importance. No one can put a price on Christian love shown to someone who needs that caring presence from you, personally, individually.
Everyone is a “minister” in the typical parish. Most of the congregation may forget that their ministry began with their “ordination” in Holy Baptism. We must recognize the power of the seven standard sacraments of the church, but also pay attention to the sacramental nature of our individual lives. We should be regularly challenged as Christ’s flock to think of ourselves as a sacrament. One gives oneself to others sacramentally; one is empowered to distribute the Grace of God. A Christian’s job is to “be Christ” to other people. We act sacramentally when we interact with others in a loving and caring way. For example, it is eucharistic to take food to a bereaved family. We do not want to forget that simple presence with others is more meaningful than words can ever be. If, for instance, we do not help others work through their grief by our simple presence and sacramental gifts of care and concern, that grief (or other pain) can become destructive, alienating, anti-social, or crippling.
We are not asked to be psychologically involved; we aren’t trying to “fix” people through our ministry, only relate theologically through our understanding of ourselves as sacraments. It should not be unthinkable that we should love one another as Christ did us. Notwithstanding today’s prohibitions against physical contact, would not a hug have a healing effect on a fellow parishioner? Good liturgical practice and clerical care reinforces our ability to reach out to each other, to touch with a healing grace. Church is, alas, often our last, best hope to be a community when families and friends cannot be there. As we share “communion” at a common table, our Eucharist reinforces the joy of the commonality of all humanity. Jesus came to us to stand between the perfection of God and the humanity of the crowd, not as a tragic figure, but one whose death was a triumph. That is why we must, in all our liturgy, celebrate our “humanness”.
Let us give as we are able, but especially from our own humanity. That is the ministry that has drawn me to the church for many years. It is never near perfection, but to be like Christ is the goal we seek. We must never let our trying to reach that goal discourage us because we do not think it is enough. It is enough that we think in a moment that we can be unselfish as he was.