Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Ministry
In recent years, "ministry" in the Church has been given a broader understanding than it had previously received. Not so long ago, it was largely restricted to priests and religious. The Laity were "also rans" in the ministerial stakes! As one noted orator commented - "the role of the laity was to 'pay up and shut up'"! Not today! And the scripture readings today all touch on this subject of ministry and its broad application in the Church.

Actsƒ‚‚‚  6:1-7:ƒ‚‚‚  So that they could have time to concentrate on their principal ministry, preaching, the Apostles chose seven disciples to attend to the material demands of the rapidly growing Christian community.ƒ‚‚‚  They were called deacons.

1 Peter 2: 4-9: Here the laity are endowed with a missionary character to make known the Word by the example of their lives

St. John 14: 1-12: The gospel opensƒ‚‚‚  to us the image of Jesus ministering to the disturbed and puzzled Apostles with words of comfort and assurance. It was not a ministry of fear and terror, of threats of hellfire and damnation, or an arbitrary use of authority, but simply encouragement, reassurance and love.

First Point: Since Vatican 11, the subject of ministry in the Church has prompted a great deal of discussion. The notion of universal priesthood has been raised, as has the ordination of woman to the priesthood; and we have become quite familiar with such titles as "acolytes", "special ministers" and "altar servers", as distinct from the "altar boys" of the past, as girls now take their place enacting the liturgy. My purpose in this reflection is to touch briefly on the general understanding of "ministry" as it affects all baptised people. St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, set the ultimate goal for all people to achieve - "that they should seek God in the hope that they might feel after him and find him" (Acts 17: 27). This search is carried on by different people in different ways. St. Paul speaks of the variety of gifts exercised by different persons as they seek not only to know God, but also seek to make Him known. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone (1 Cor.12: 4). It is in the light of this teaching that we now recognise "vocation" to mean all people, in their search for God, are called to a particular role in life - priesthood, religious life, marriage or single life. In another of his letters, St. Paul described this as making up the Mystical Body of Christ. "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor, 12:14).

Point 2:ƒ‚‚‚  Continuing to use this comparison with the human body - if one part is afflicted, the whole body is afflicted, it is with deep regret that recent times have exposed a number of those involved in this ministry who have betrayed the trust placed in them; and the whole image of the Church has been damaged. And yet it is unfair to judge the majority for the neglect of a few. Because we are all human, each of us can point the finger, and have the finger pointed , whether we are priests, religious or laity. On the other hand, for the most part, the overall ministry of the Church can be regarded with pride and gratitude.

Conclusion: The readings, today, open up to us the origins of this sense of ministry. The first reading describes the appointment of "special" ministers - deacons - appointed to handle the everyday running of the early Church.ƒ‚‚‚  With his reference to the conflict between the Greek speaking and Aramaic speaking members of the early Christian community, St. Luke reminds us that the problems of ministry are as old as Christianity! In the second reading, St. Peter presents the image of the Christian community as a building with Jesus as the cornerstone with each individual ministering to the other as part of a "royal priesthood". And the gospel opens up to us the image of Jesus ministering to the disturbed and puzzled Apostles with words of comfort and assurance. It was not a ministry of fear and terror, of threats of hellfire and damnation, or an arbitrary use of authority, but simply encouragement, reassurance and love. Pope St. Clement 1 who died in 101 and personally knew St. Peter and St. Paul gives testimony to this model of ministry in his famous letter to the Corinthians written to settle a dispute that had broken out in that community. He wrote -"In Christ Jesus, then, let this corporate body of ours be likewise maintained intact .. the strong are not to ignore the weak, and the weak are to respect the strong; rich men should provide for the poor and the poor should thank God for giving them somebody to supply their wants..."

This is the model of ministry open to us as followers of Christ - to show concern where it is needed as we, individually, use the gifts that have been given to us..

Scriptural reference: "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11)

Vision Statement

We are:

* a welcoming community which reaches out to all
* celebrating Christ's presence
* joyfully living out our Christian calling across distance and diversity

This vision states that as a Diocese, we aim to be a welcoming, missionary, centred on Christ, and each striving to live one's particular vocation. It is in living out our calling that we praise God, follow Christ, influence society and achieve the goal of eternal life won for us by Christ. In the parishes we have encouraged people to measure whatever they do against this Diocesan vision.

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