Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pastoral ministry is being a fool for Christ

I'll be honest and admit that I've really never been a fan of or a participant in April Fool's Day. My admission is not intended to exhibit a morally superior attitude. I am fine with April Fool's Day and once in awhile, despite myself, have to admit, "That was a good one."

Thinking about April Fool's this evening St Paul's passage from the fourth chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians popped into my mind:
For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment (1 Cor 4:9-13)
In this passage Paul employs sarcasm when he tells the Christians of Corinth "you are wise in Christ... you are strong... you are held in honor." Paul is rehearsing for them what they think of themselves in contrast to how they perceive him and his co-workers.

Not too long ago at a luncheon I sat next to one of the wisest priests I know, a man getting on years, with a long distinguished ministry as a pastor, administrator of Catholic institutions, who has served at the highest diocesan levels. He said to me, "When it comes to the Church many people are naive." This statement can be taken in a variety of ways and applied across many situations and circumstances. It is a general observation. But few people really know how demanding pastoral ministry truly is, especially when considered in light of the earthly "rewards" one receives for engaging in it (paltry at best). St Paul knew, your bishop knows, your pastor knows, his associate pastor(s) either knows or is in the process of finding out (i.e., being disabused of his[/their] naivety), many deacons know. This is why ministry is a calling. It is not for everyone. Discernment for ministry has to be taken seriously, both by the Church and by the person seeking ordination, or institution, as a minister.

What drew my attention in the passage from 1 Corinthians today was not what Paul and his fellow workers were subjected to, but how Paul insisted he had to respond: 'When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently." If you balk at this then you're not foolish enough to minister in the name of Christ.

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