Why were they sent; why are we?

First Week of Advent, November 30, 2011

By Marjorie George

James Dennis’ reflection this morning (See Becoming Apostles, posted below) introduces us to a perspective on Advent not often considered: Advent as ministry. James points out that the disciples are called to “leave their rabbi behind and start on their own journey.” On this journey they will learn much about themselves, but they are also instructed to “proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick.” They are to take up their ministry. The Christian life is not a spectator sport, James reminds us.

The rise of personal ministry, especially among lay people, is enjoying popularity just now in the Church. Many are investigating and seriously searching for their own vocations, that particular area in which God is calling them to do ministry. And that is a good thing; it is my personal belief that the future of the Church depends on each of us recognizing the charisms God has given us and using those skills, talents, and abilities to proclaim the good news in our time.

Henri Nouwen, in his book Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith, speaks a lot about ministry; and he says something important for us to hear during Advent: Ministry is done from our hearts. Of all that Jesus taught the disciples before sending them out, he taught them about caring. “Jesus did not cure the crowds applying proven ministry techniques,” says Nouwen. “He spoke from his heart, acted out of compassion, and left the results to God.

“We have to trust in God’s healing power,” continues Nouwen. “Trust that if we are living as the beloved and have compassion for people, many will be healed, whether or not we notice it at the time.”

Our ministry comes from the overflow of our love for God and for his people. We do not always have to get it perfect, or follow the rules, or even be diligent in our preparation for ministry. We don’t need lots of ritual or books or graduate degrees. We need to live as followers and lovers of Christ, for as Nouwen so eloquently says, “Ministry is when two people toast their glasses of wine and something splashes over.”

Marjorie George, editor, ReflectionsOnline

Reach Marjorie at marjorie.george@dwtx.org

To think about:

In what situations might God be calling you to minister to others simply by living as a follower and lover of Christ?