January 29, 2017
Both the second reading and the Gospel of this weekend are perfectly designed for this day when we are asking you to commit to some form of ministry in the parish. Saint Paul writes:
“Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise”.
We priests find those words encouraging. We are not priests because of any extraordinary abilities; we are priests because God has called us - and we trust God to give us the graces we need to carry out his work. And it’s no different with lay ministry. You may not have volunteered for ministry before now because you feel you have nothing to offer; but if you have a sense of God calling you that is enough. God will give you the grace you need, and the only challenge is to find out which ministry is most suitable. That’s where today’s Gospel helps.
It’s the first twelve verses of the most distinctive section of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) which is a masterpiece of religious and ethical teaching. Matthew shows Jesus as a new Moses, preaching from a mountain and bringing to his people first of all the Beatitudes, which are the New Testament parallel of the Ten Commandments. He describes eight ways of being “blessed” (Latin
beatus) which we should understand as being happy or fortunate, and, by extension, holy; then he concludes by telling the disciples that in spite of difficulties, they are destined to be blessed as well. The Beatitudes show a variety of paths to holiness - to be merciful, to be a peacemaker, to hunger and thirst for righteousness - and last week’s Ministry Fair revealed that there are many different ways to serve the Church. If you are shy, you might prefer one of the support roles like washing the altar linen; if you are outgoing, you might have the confidence to be a Minister to the Sick. Be aware, however, that ministry enriches us. Many a shy person - myself among them - has learned confidence through reading in church or being an altar server.
Some of the ministries have restrictions. The Diocese expects all who work with children, young people and the sick, and all who handle money - including Ministers of Hospitality - to be fingerprinted and background-checked. The regulations are pretty much common sense: if you have a DUI in the past you can still be a catechist, but you would not be allowed to drive a church group. Other restrictions come from Canon Law. For example, Ministers of the Eucharist are expected to lead exemplary lives so they have to be single or in a Catholic marriage.
Do not be discouraged. God has given you talents and wants to use them. Please do sign up to get involved in ministry. Once you have taken that first step, the ministry leaders will help you with training and practical guidance.