Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ministry is charity, that is, becoming myself

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over. Nonetheless, it has been a good and mostly restful summer for me this far, by the mercy of God. I am grateful for this because I sorely needed it. Not being so busy has given me time to pray and reflect more, to do some recalibration, especially concerning my ministry, which was demanding way too much of my time and energy. Things are pretty well set for the current year, but beyond that I think more discernment will be required, a judgment that seeks to take all the factors of reality into account, hopefully resulting in an intelligent judgment.

I think anyone in Christian ministry, at least someone who belongs in ministry, wonders from time-to-time whether anything they do makes a difference, only be reminded over and again that faith, hope, and love are not something we generate ourselves. Hence, there really are no metrics for measuring the success of one's ministry, at least not any the really that matter, that tell you anything meaningful. Very often we work hard to apply instrumental reasoning to our endeavors, thereby seeking to reduce the Mystery to our measure.

Msgr. Giussani wrote a pamphlet entitled The Meaning of Charitable Work. While performing charitable works certainly requires us to move beyond ourselves, there is nothing wrong with pointing out, as Giussani does, that we perform works of charity "so that we may learn to fulfill the task of becoming ourselves."

Charity personified as a mother with three infants, by Anthony Van Dyck, ca. 1627-1628

Of course, all ministry is charitable work, that is, caritas, or agapé. Charity should never be reduced in the way we are prone to reduce it, using it the restricted modern way, to simply mean benevolent giving, with its implied condescension.

Because it is part of being human to be interested in others, charitable work satisfies a need of mine. Don Gius observed that "it is Christ who has enabled us to understand the ultimate reason for this, revealing the ultimate law of being and of life: charity." Hence, the most elemental part of being human, the supreme way we can see that the Mystery is our origin and destiny, is our need "to share in the being of others, to live in communion." According to Gius, "Only Jesus Christ reveals this to us, because He knows what everything truly is, who God, from whom we are born truly is, what Being truly is." So, he continues, "I am able to understand the word 'charity' when I remember that the Son of God, loving us did not send us His riches (as He was able to do) and revolutionize our situation; instead He became poor like one of us: He 'shared' our nothingness." Hence, we perform charitable works "in order to live like Christ," which means nothing other than fulfilling "the task of becoming" myself.

A deep diaconal bow to my friend Maria Elena for bringing this pamphlet by Msgr. Giussani to my attention yesterday.

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