My friends; this Sunday’s readings are a wonderful treatise on what ministry is all about—at least as Jesus intended it, and, as it was laid out by the prophets, Jeremiah and Paul. And when I speak about “ministry,” I don’t mean that which I do alone, but what each of you do as well, in your everyday lives. I think we don’t often consider what we do in our everyday lives as “ministry”—that’s something for the pastor, we might think. But, I am here to tell you that it is for each of us, as Christians, as followers of our brother, Jesus. We can’t miss the prophet, Jeremiah’s injunction to his hearers that we are called to care for the poor, the lowly and those in need.
I was reminded of this—that each of us is called to ministry during the past week when I attended a Pastoral Care Week celebration for volunteers at Winona Health. If we so chose; we could have our hands blessed for the ministry that we do. This blessing signifies that the work that you do for family, friends, students, neighbors, spouses and strangers, is holy work. Today, after communion, I will offer this blessing to you, should you choose to have your hands blessed.
Another part of the Pastoral Care Week celebration for those participating was to share stories of the ways that they were blessed in visiting others, sharing the rosary, or sitting with those in the last stages of life.
One story shared was of the chaplain being called to the room of a dying resident at Lake Winona Manor and finding out from a family member that the rosary had been very important to this person, the chaplain asked if the resident had a rosary. Finding that she didn’t, the chaplain brought one from the office and put it into her hands.
It turned out that a volunteer was in the nursing home on this particular day praying the rosary with a group of residents in the chapel. The chaplain, whose background wasn’t Catholic, asked the volunteer if she would stop by the resident’s room when she was finished with the larger group and pray with the dying resident. The volunteer did and as she prayed the familiar prayer, the resident died peacefully.
So, we never know what our action will mean for someone, when we take the extra time as the volunteer did to reach out to another—a time that the Spirit will work through us for the good of another. Once again then; I would like to encourage us in our daily tasks in our families, with friends, at our jobs, to recall that it is God’s work through us, if we so choose. This is what being a Christian really means—making it about all that we do!
The writer to the Hebrews reminds all of us as “ministers” that ministering to others is a privilege given us by God, not for ourselves, but for the people and additionally; we serve others best when we do it out of “our own weakness,” being aware, as the psalmist says, [that] “God has done great things for us.”
I do have to say that those who profess to be pastors cannot miss the Hebrew writer’s message that what we do must never be for ourselves, our own aggrandizement, but for the people we supposedly, serve. The gift of ministry must always be seen in this light. This idea should be key as our Church hierarchy consider, if they do, renewing our beloved Church.
Our brother Jesus, too, demonstrates, as he always does, how our ministry to others should be carried out, in the beautiful story of the blind man, Bartimaeus. I believe we can learn much if we look closely at what he asks of Jesus.
His first request is that Jesus would, “have mercy” on him. And when we think of it friends, isn’t this the prayer in each of our hearts as we face our world?—have mercy on me! Jesus’ apostles don’t quite get, yet, what their calls are to be about—they are more into silencing Bartimaeus, because he is making a ruckus! Would that more of us in our Church, our world, would make a ruckus!—especially in the face of so much injustice, so much untruth, so much, at times, down-right evil!
But Jesus shows his apostles and us the way—“Bartimaeus, what is it that you want?” To Jesus’ question comes Bartimaeus’ beautiful, simple answer, “I want to see”—[God, I just want to see!]
Friends, what would it be like if each of us, in our lives could pray, Bartimaeus’ simple prayer?—because you see, no pun intended, each of us is “blind” in many different ways! Some of us are into control in our lives, some of us may be selfish with our time and talent, some may be judgmental—unfeeling of what others may be walking with—all ways that we are “blind” and cannot truly, “see.” I know, in my own life; I can tick off many of these things.
Additionally, what would it look like in the lives of the bishops around our world meeting this month in Rome, on the topic of “youth” in our Church and of how to keep them connected to the Church. They might begin by truly listening to the youth in our world, especially those who have disengaged and ask them Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” And by listening as Jesus did, they would most assuredly get to the truth!
A large contingent of women has been in Rome this past month, asking to be heard as well. Their “calling card” of late has been, “Knock, knock!” The supposed response; “Who’s there?” To which the women respond, “More than half the Church!” As you all know, women had no voice, as usual, no vote in these proceedings. When the women asked, “why”—the response, an untruth was given: “Well, because you have to be ordained to vote.” This answer was given, a lie, in the face of the fact that two religious brothers attending, had votes!
Of the women who attended this meeting, a group from the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), RCWP’s sister group in the southern states of this country, South and Central America, one woman, Deborah Rose-Milavec and Kate McElwee of NCR, sent some encouraging news.
First, they delivered a statement with over 9,300 signatures entitled, Votes for Catholic Women, asking that at least Catholic Religious Sisters be given a vote, as they were on the same par as the religious brothers. This was part of a document of over 200 pages explaining their position and why this was important. This document was entitled, Catholic Women Speak.
To their surprise, on day 23, Cardinal Bo of Myanmar, Burma, held up a copy of the document for all to see (this document had been made available to every bishop in attendance) and he said that he was going to begin reading it! Later, he said with great humility and compassion, it was reported, “there is the need to put a laser focus on women because of the suffering they endure in his country and around the world.” This statement, to the women observers, was a huge development! One had the sense that some “listening” by some, was happening—that some, “blindness” was being lifted.
In conclusion then, reflecting back to the Gospel where the apostles were trying to silence Bartimaeus, let us all agree that to stand by in silence, in the face of those trying to right an injustice is over! The Spirit of our brother, Jesus, demands that we speak for the good of all. On November 6th, we have such an opportunity—do use it for the good of all!
A friend recently sent me these lines from The Talmud, the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law:
Do not be daunted, by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do just[ice], now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. Amen? Amen!