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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
In this week’s Gospel, the Apostles, excited about all they did on their missionary journey, return to tell Jesus. He doesn’t seem too interested in their achievements. He invites them to take some time to reflect upon them and discover what God did for them while they were healing the sick, proclaiming the good news of salvation, and freeing people from demons. He wanted them to discover how God’s power had worked through them and the impact their ministry had upon them. Every time we engage in an act of ministry—distributing communion, proclaiming a liturgical reading, breaking bread with the hungry, visiting the sick, teaching a faith formation lesson, visiting a prison inmate, serving mass, serving as an usher, leading a hymn, singing in a choir, planning a parish event, preparing folks to receive the sacraments, or welcoming new members into the church or the parish—we are doing God’s work. When we do God’s work we encounter God and his grace forms us into the people he calls us to be. The mission of missionary disciples is to change the world by bringing others to Christ. In the process, we also experience God’s grace that strengthens, guides, and changes us in accordance with God’s will.
We can easily miss this experience if we just concentrate on the tasks we have accomplished and overlook God’s grace that makes all things possible in us. It is important that we take time to reflect upon our experience of God’s presence as we minister to others. We can ask the questions: where did I get those words that lifted someone’s spirit; how did I find the patience to deal with that difficult person; how did I find the energy and the wisdom to accompany a person through a challenging situation in their life; where did that extra time I needed to help do an important parish task come from? When we explore these questions and others, they will lead us to the source and the power of our discipleship: the love and the mercy of God.
You might think that this is impossible or probably not worth the time, but this Sunday’s gospel reading teaches us that all of this is an essential part of ministry. The following are suggestions for how to take this time away from the crowd without leaving home or going away for an extended time. First, prayer is time away; before we begin any ministry, we need to pray for the wisdom, grace, and mercy to accomplish it. We also need follow-up prayer to give God thanks for using us as humble instruments to do great work. Second, we can connect our ministry with Eucharist Adoration. The Apostles’ ministry began by being sent by the Lord; we can spend ten or fifteen minutes before the Eucharistic Lord and experience him sending us on our missionary journey. Their ministry concluded when they returned to the Lord who invited them to take time to reflect upon what happened to them as they ministered to others. We can conclude our ministry by spending time in the Lord’s presence seeking to understand how our ministry affected us. Every saint grew in holiness as they did the Lord’s work. When we reflect on our ministry, we will discover that God has made us holy through the work he sent us to do.
May God’s Peace be Yours,