"He has sent me to bring the good, news to the poor..." [Lk 4:18]
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
has anointed us so as to send us, filled with His power and presence, to pour the living waters onto the world. Consecration exists for mission. And as our consecration is but a sharing in Jesus' one priestly anointing, so our mission is but a partaking, an extension of His. As and in Jesus, we too are the ones "the Father has consecrated and sent into the world" (Jn 10:36). That mission is not as much what we do as what we are, as Jesus “whose entire existence was a complete identification with the mission entrusted him by the Father” (Balthasar). We do not merely have a mission, we are our mission.
The gospels describe Jesus' ministry as being made up of two characteristic activities: “He went about preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing the sick…” (Mt 4:23), announcing the compassion and restoration of God's kingdom and putting that compassion into effect, demonstrating the presence of the proclaimed kingdom, by healing. That healing was not only revelation of a God who is love, but prefigurement (Mk 2:10) of the total healing to be won in His death, the total satiating to be won by His thirsting. Jesus shared that same mission, as well as the power of the kingdom they were to announce, with the Twelve (Mt 10:7); charging them to proclaim the satiating, healing, forgiving power of God, and to channel that power in compassionate service, bringing a healed and satiated mankind into the unity of the kingdom.
As Jesus' coworkers, our ministry is to reflect His spirit of service, to continue His proclamation and channeling of the living waters, to mirror the life of the Trinity by our ministry of charity within the communion of the Church.
SERVING THE KINGDOM
Jesus emptied Himself not only to be among us and share our human condition, but to "be among us as one who serves" (Lk 22:27), "Emptying himself to take the form of a servant" (Phil 2:8). So too our spirit of self-emptying oneness with God and people leads to and finds expression in service. As Mother Teresa insists,“ faith leads to love, and love leads to service.” We are not only to perform that service, but to be servants, serving not out of a spirit of condescension that requires gratitude or recompense, but in a spirit of solidarity with those we serve. We are to serve with a true sense of respect for their dignity as children of God, not keeping ourselves above those we serve by means of our very service, but in unfeigned respect placing ourselves beneath them as true servants in a “state of service,” assuming not only the task but the “form of a servant,” so that service constitutes our reason for being, and in a certain sense our very being itself. Greatest among us will not be those who have made of their service a career, but rather those who have made their career a service: “the greatest among you will be the one who makes himself least of all and servant of all" (Lk 22:26). Jesus who "came to serve rather than be served" (Mt 20:28), washed the disciples' feet, a task reserved to the lowliest of servants, to “leave you an example that you might go and do the same" (Jn 13:16).
Our service in ministry does not exist for its own sake, is not an end in itself, but exists for Jesus in others. And so our work must not be done merely for the sake of the work, but for Him. Our fundamental value is the Lord, an absolute value to which our work is secondary and relative, for our vocation is not so much to the work of our ministry as it is to belong to Jesus whose ministers we are. Our work will be the result of that belonging, not our belonging the result of our work.
In this light, human success and failure lose their importance. The Lord does not ask that we be a success, but that we be faithful. “However beautiful the work is, be detached from it - even ready to give it up and be in peace. The work is not yours, you are working for Jesus. Remember that the work is His…" (MT).
It is this inner freedom, this spirit of service, this joy of serving which alone gives vitality to our ministry, so that this ministry, rather than being a burden we carry, becomes a force which carries us, which gives energy rather than depleting it, communicating a sense of enthusiasm and even divine urgency: “caritas Christi urget nos…"
This spirit of service is not to be associated exclusively to the duties of the ministry, but become an overall attitude of life, a responsiveness which others encounter in encountering us, an awareness beyond limits of duty or geography that we are pastors to all, priests for all, called not only to proclaim but to demonstrate our universal brotherhood under a common Father.
The spirit of universal service is born of a conscious and universal respect for each person, regardless of belief or behavior, as a child of God and tabernacle of the suffering Christ, one whom He redeemed “at so great a price.” We must be filled with wonder al God's own respect and love for man: "How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he gained 'so great a Redeemer,' and if God 'gave His only Son' in order that man 'should not perish but have eternal life.' In reality, the name for that deep amazement at man's worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say: the Good News" (Redemptor Hominis, n.10), a good news we are to proclaim by expressing God's own respect for man through the way we serve.
PROCLAIMING THE LIVING WATERS
Our primary service is evangelization, the sowing of the Word. Evangelization "sums up the whole mission of Jesus: 'This is what f was sent to do.' These words take on their full significance if linked to the previous verses in which Christ has just applied to Himself the words of the prophet Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me, he has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.’ Going from town to town, preaching to the poorest the joyful news of the fulfilment of the promises of the Covenant offered by God is the mission for which Jesus declares that he is sent by the Father” (Ev. Nuntiandi, 6). And for this we too are sent, to satiate that deepest hunger that is beneath all human poverty with "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Dt 8:3); to offer not just our words but His Word, to console our people with His consolation, to truly preach the gospel in all its purity and simplicity, in all its beauty and force. We are servants of our people only as servants of the Word, unashamed and untiring bearers of the gospel “in season and out of season" (2 Tm 4:2); for "the Spirit of the Lord is upon us…"
“He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor”; the sower must go out in order to sow; we are "fishers of men" (Mt 4:19), missionaries wherever we are: “We have the missions even in our own house, this is what we must stress even more, love for one another in parish and community” (MT). Let us indeed stress this missionary spirit “ad intra,” finding the missions in our own parish and people, not needing to traverse foreign lands to fulfill our desire to evangelize, but realizing that "this is the beautiful part, we can remain where we are…” (MT), for Calcutta is indeed everywhere.
Our attitude in ministry must reflect the great themes of the kingdom. Ours is first of all then a ministry of presence. As God did not love us from afar, neither can we be channels of His love locked away in our superiority or professional indifference. We are to serve among our people, and as one of them, in humility and respect. As the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep, calling each by name, so are we to know our people, know their needs, their sufferings, their joys; being able to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rm 12:15). We empty self by taking to heart their problems and needs rather than our own, and it is this knowing self-emptying that alone can lead us to oneness with our people. Jesus was able to become one with us because He knew us, our weakness, our hopes, our needs. Only to the degree that we know our people can we render ourselves one with them in their situation, vulnerable to their suffering and responsive to their need.
As Jesus, we are to identify totally with our people, becoming one with them “in all things but sin” (PhiI 2:7). Our great challenge is to remain faithful to the spirit and consequences of the Incarnation, faithful to conscious, sought-after oneness of heart and life with our people no matter what the cost to ourselves, faithful as a Mother Teresa who, not content with merely serving the people of Calcutta, made herself one with them and one of them. To live Jesus' ministry is to continue in ourselves that process of incarnation, "assuming" unto ourselves not the humanity of our people which we already share, but their condition, their poverty, their suffering, their need and thirst for God. Only by the effort to grow in solidarity, immersion, presence, identification, shall we acquire the closeness and sensitivity necessary to truly “carry one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). As long as those burdens are distant, unknown, foreign, seen as belonging to someone else in ignorance of the fact that as members of Christ we are also "members one of another" (Rm 12:5), those burdens will never be lifted, shall never touch our shoulders, and the law of Christ will have yet to find its fulfillment in us. And so a conscious living of the Incarnation in all its consequences, that first phase of Jesus' mission, must be the starting point also for us who "come in the name of the Lord" (Mt 12:9).
The conviction, the missionary zeal, the coherence of life and the charity that “urges us” in the work of evangelization become themselves a vital part of that evangelization. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Paul VI). Our evangelization is truly service if done in this spirit of service, working neither for results nor approval, but with the eyes and heart of a servant "turned towards his master" (Ps 123) in Lord and people; and in so doing that service becomes in turn true evangelization. With Jesus then, we are called to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, to announce the gift of living waters, called to preach the gospel with our life and to live to preach the gospel. “For this we have come and were sent…” (cfr .Lk 4:43).
CHANNELING THE SAVIOR'S FOUNTAINS
If our primary service is evangelisation, proclaiming the kingdom, it is so only to bring people into that kingdom, to bring them to the living waters. What we proclaim in word we are to communicate in sacrament. All our ministry, as Jesus' incarnation and mission, consists in bridging the gap between God and people, helping bring them to Him and Him to them, serving His presence, activity, and growth within them, and within the world.
Our first task in "stirring the waters of Bethzatha" (Jn 5:4), is that of awakening in our people the desire to take their baptism seriously, "stirring up" the living waters that often lie dormant, "choked by the worries of life and the love for riches" (Mt 13:22). They need to be convinced of the dignity of their calling as sons and daughters of God, convinced that they have died and risen with Christ and that they have become "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, set apart to declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His own marvelous light” (1 Pt 2:9). Our ministerial priesthood exists only to serve their baptismal priesthood, but “how are they to believe in what they have not heard?" (Rm 10:14) unless we never tire of telling the good news of the gift that is within them: "If you but knew the gift of God…" (Jn 4:10).
Neither their baptism nor their sealing with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation must be seen as merely a past event, a static reality, but as a living spring within them (Jn 7:37), source of the Holy Spirit they have only to believe in and call on to experience His comfort and aid in their daily life. But only our faith can inspire their faith, only our experience of prayer can keep our teaching on prayer from seeming shallow and contrived. If we are praying, we will not feel embarrassed to speak on prayer, to teach our people to draw from the living waters in prayer, to find God not just on Sunday but throughout the week, to pray as a family, as the “domestic church,” and to make God not just something but someone in their life.
We must remind them that the gospel is not only a belief but a way of life, that the values of the kingdom go counter to those of the world, stressing above all trust and confidence in the living God, a God who is real, is present, and who cares for them. Only if they have learned to turn their troubles over to Him will they be able to turn over to Him their lives. But they can trust God only if they know Him, and know Him only if they have met Him: in prayer and in His Word. We must encourage them to take God's Word in hand, to come to know and love the Scriptures.
The two major fonts of the living waters are found in the healing of Reconciliation and the satiating of the Eucharist. The fundamental poverty, the unseen wounds of our people require a healing only the Lord can impart through our generous availability and zeal in encouraging and aiding them to approach the Saviour in the sacrament of Reconciliation. This essential ministry is one all too often neglected by pastor and people alike, though it represents the characteristic power and victory of the kingdom: the breaking of the shackles of sin and death, God's announced healing come true. In Jesus' own mind this seems to be the Spirit's primary function in our ministry: “Receive the Holy Spirit: whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven…” (Jn 20:23). How absurd it would be to spend effort and energy in preaching the good news of God's healing, and then to neglect the wounded; to speak of the living waters while leaving people to thirst; to insist on God's mercy and yet to view the ministry of reconciliation as marginal, optional, even unwelcome. We must return to perceiving this divine privilege which so scandalized the Pharisees (Mt 9:3) as the logical and wondrous incarnation of the good news we proclaim, the principal font of the healing waters we bring.
Our wounded people are also a people who hunger: they need not only be forgiven but fed by God, not only washed in the living waters but quenched by them. The Eucharist is that living Bread, that living Rock that was struck to save and satiate. In this mystery and ministry, our priesthood and that of our people converge in harmony, therein converge the Holy Spirit's consecration of Jesus, of ourselves, of the eucharistic gifts, of our people (Gregory of Nyssa). Ours is the great privilege of making present Jesus' one act of infinite praise of the Father and infinite love for man, so that our people "as a holy priesthood may offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 2:5). "The laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit are marvelously called and equipped to produce in themselves ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit. For all their works, all their daily labor, become spiritual sacrifices in Jesus Christ. During the celebration of the Eucharist, these sacrifices are lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord's body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the laity consecrate the world itself to God" (LG. 34). "The Priest, by ministry of word and prayer in bringing men to the Eucharist and consecrated living, is the permanent sign and instrument, sacrament of Christ the Consecrator of the world. Jesus the Christ, the consecrated of and to the Father, continues through his ministerial priests to consecrate bread and wine as his body and blood, in order through them to give himself to the 'saints' (Rm 1:7) so as to consecrate the world through their secular activities. Christ consecrates the bread and wine only in order to consecrate hearts, and thus to transfigure the secular world of men..." (De Margerie).
In all of these ministries our goal is to awaken, stimulate, and satiate our people's innate thirst for God; making God no longer distant and abstract for them, but real and alive, present in the Savior's fountains He has entrusted to our care.
COMPASSION: THE CONTINUING THIRST
"Jesus went around visiting all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and healing every kind of disease and illness. As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with compassion for them, for they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd..." (Mt 9:35). In this context is to be read and understood the passage that immediately follows: "Jesus then called his twelve disciples together and gave them power to cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness..." (Mt 10:1). Our ministry was born of the compassion of Christ, and so must in all its aspects reflect the power and mystery of that divine compassion. This great mystery, begun with the Incarnation and fulfilled on Calvary, revealed a God who, in Jesus, so thirsted for man as to take on all our sin, our poverty, our abandonment, our suffering, slavery, and death. All the abyss of misery symbolized in our human hunger and thirst He assumed unto Himself to the point that our thirst then truly found voice in His: His thirst truly expressed ours as well as the Father's. He had become so one with us on the Cross that our poverty cried out in His Sitio. After the tree of Eden, God's love for man became thirst; on the tree of Calvary that thirst became compassion, "suffering with," thirsting not only for but with a thirsting humanity.
And the beautiful thing, the unfathomable thing, is that His compassion continues. Jesus still thirsts. "Unlike the philosophers, Jesus not only taught but lived, to the point of suffering and dying with and for man. He does not limit Himself to see human misery, or even to come to its aid, but He himself penetrates this misery, taking it upon Himself. Jesus lives and suffers in others, for others. This is the mystery of the Incarnation. In His own body Jesus feels the hunger of the poor, their thirst, their exhaustion, their tears, their infirmity, their bleeding, their death" (B. Matteucci).
He not only feels their thirst, He thirsts in their thirst because He has made them one with Him by making Himself one with them, "you in Me and I in you" (Jn 17:22). As Mother Teresa affirms, "He has made Himself the Hungry One, the Lonely One, the Needy One." Jesus remains our Emmanuel in the poor, in the suffering, in our people. It is precisely in our poverty, there where we feel most the need and absence of God, that He mysteriously dwells among us. He has become so small, so near to us, so one with us that He hides in our very thirst.
There He thirsts with us, there He thirsts for us, there under the "distressing disguise" of our people He continues to ask, "Give me to drink" from the Jacob's well of our heart. If in those moments "we only knew who it is that is asking of us to drink"; and if we "only knew the gift of God" we receive in the giving. In seeing the poverty of our people we see the poverty of Jesus. In revealing Himself in the distressing disguise, we who have seen Jesus have also seen the Father, we who have understood Jesus' thirst have discovered the love and thirst of the "One who sent Him." Jesus present in the poor and suffering reveals the thirst of the Father. In realizing this gift we can say with Philip: "It is enough for us, Lord" (Jn 14:9), for we have seen the Father's face.
How much would change, how many ramifications in our life if we but took Jesus at His word: "I was hungry, I was thirsty, alone, sick, in prison... and you did it to Me" (Mt 25:40). Have we gone to visit Him in His tabernacles of flesh? Do they even exist for us in our comfortable homes, or do they exist only for a silent and suffering Lord, a Lord though, who "has no hands on earth but ours, no words but our words"? "Jesus Crucified. How many handicapped people, mentally retarded, young people fill the hospitals. How many there are in our own neighborhoods. Do we ever visit them? Do we ever go to share with them that Crucifixion? And Jesus said, if you want to be my disciples take the cross and follow me. And He meant that we take up the cross and we feed Him in the hungry and we clothe Him in the naked and we take Him into our house" (MT). But once we "give our hearts to love and our hands to serve," then we become "true contemplatives in the heart of the world, touching Christ twenty-four hours a day" (MT). And so our seeing Jesus leads necessarily to reaching out to Him, touching Him, not merely seeing but living what we see, loving each other as He has loved, even unto dying.
Compassion is the cornerstone of our ministry not only because it is Jesus himself who suffers in the suffering, who thirsts in the desert of our Calcutta, but because compassion for physical poverty and suffering expresses, makes authentic, completes, points toward, instills and increases our compassion for spiritual poverty and suffering. We are to minister to the whole person, as Jesus did, and to respect the sacramental nature of man and of salvation, whereby spiritual realities are expressed and communicated through outward gestures. To possess and proclaim a deep compassion for man's inner poverty, we must develop and live a pervading compassion for man's outer poverty. This is why Jesus "went about preaching the good news and healing the sick": outer compassion is an integral part and necessary expression of a yet deeper inner compassion.
Through the exercise of that outer compassion we begin to embrace the distressing disguise, and learn to love the unloveable, for more even than the cross that makes them "unloveable" it is that very unloveableness that is the most crushing of crosses: "Be kind, very kind to the suffering and poor. We little realize what they go through . . . treat them as temples of God" (MT). In treating them so, as "temples of God," the rejected experience what it is to be wanted, they rediscover their human dignity; for in contemplating and serving Christ in them we are pointing to a Presence, and to their identification with that Presence, which then they themselves and those around them can begin to see. Our charity reveals the Christ in them both to themselves and to the world.
Compassion finds expression also in generosity, the ability to "walk the second mile," to take the time to listen to people, to give more than we are asked and even before we are asked, giving a "prevenient" love as does God, and as God having no measure to our charity but that of loving without measure. As Jesus who loved us "unto death," loving without measure is to love without taking account of the cost, loving "until it hurts" and beyond.
This refusal to measure or to count the cost must inspire every facet of our ministry - in refusing to limit our charity within pre-established boundaries of time, expense, inconvenience, or labor. Jesus did none of this, His self-giving was "free" in the deepest sense: liberal, prodigal, abundant. "Freely have you received, freely shall you give." This liberality, this refusal to measure is first of all seen in that which is the basic element of every ministry: labor, effort, and fatigue. "You are to labor at the conversion and sanctification of the poor ... to labor, that is, hard ceaseless toiling, without results, without counting the cost" (MT). The fatigue due to our ministry is not merely its undesirable by-product, but an integral part of our work, since our labor is grafted onto the redemptive work of Christ. "In bearing the fatigue of labor in union with Christ crucified for us, we collaborate with the Son of God in the redemption of humanity" (Laborem Exercens 27). Therefore, not only our ministry in itself, but in a special way its very fatigue, frustrations, and pain are salvific, are corn-Passion in the truest sense, and are part of our mission as they were part of His.
That tireless effort which gives substance to our compassion must lead us to "going in search of the lost sheep," not only visiting those who invite us but seeking out those who do not, bringing to the contemporary Zaccheus that invitation, that mercy that not only forgives but elicits conversion. With Jesus we are to be "friend of sinners and publicans" (Lk 5:30), even to the "scandal" of seeking their company as Jesus did, for neither have we come for the virtuous but for sinners, the truly "poorest of the poor." We too must "go and learn what it means: Mercy I want rather than sacrifice" (Mt 9:13), that in understanding we might live it, and in living it "the world might believe ..." that He sent us. To be genuine, our compassion, as all charity, must begin at home, within our own rectory or community, and among our brother priests. There our compassion and solidarity find their deepest roots and potential. "Bring prayer and love for each other back into parishes and communities... The loneliness of the priest is so great, here the priest coworkers must come in, to help bring that love, that fraternity among priests" (MT). If Jesus calls us "friends," must we not consider each other the same, must not His friendship bind us together among ourselves? "May they be one, Father, as You and I are one..." (Jn 17:22).
The model for our loving "as He loved us" will ever be the gospel, a gospel upon which we must not be afraid to examine ourselves, whose radicality if unattainable in our here-and-now must not be rejected but striven for, held always as ideal and goal. Being a coworker must make some real difference in our life, provide some concrete stimulus to mind, heart, and way of life, so that in some real way we are not the same as we were before, and not yet that which we will be in the future. That difference should be summed up in one thing, measured with one barometer: a renewed and more faithful living of the gospel even there, where it embarrasses or challenges us most... "If a man takes you to court and would have your tunic, give him your cloak as well..." (Mt 5:40). "Give to anyone who asks...If anyone asks to borrow, do not turn away, lend without any hope of return..." (Mt 9:42). "If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven..." (Lk 18:22). "Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not help you? I tell you solemnly, in neglecting to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me..." (Mt 25:44). "When you give a dinner, do not invite your friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors, for they will repay you by inviting you in return. No, when you give a meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. They cannot pay you back, and you will have your reward at the resurrection of the just..." (Lk 14:12).
To love our people is to be ready to die for them, and not merely for the masses, but for each one. Each one is that temple, and the existence of the many does not dilute or diminish the supreme value of each. As Mother Teresa insists: "Jesus would have died even for one.'' And so no sacrifice is too great to be worthy of each person's dignity, for each is Jesus. As in the Eucharist so in the poor, Jesus is equally present in the one as in the many. And perhaps the best way of showing that nothing is too great is precisely in showing that nothing is too small, in the readiness to do the small things for the few with love: "We are so small we look at things in a small way. But God, being almighty, sees everything great" (MT). Doing the small things will show us the value of small things, the great efficacy of poverty of means in the apostolate, "so that it can be He and not us" (MT), rejecting with Jesus those "temptations in the desert" which we also feel, temptations to seek immediate and facile results amid hosannas rather than choosing the Father's path of poverty, humility and patient trust. Our trust is in Him, in the power of His Word spoken with our voice, spoken in what we are and what we do, in the small things which leave room for God and His activity and growth more than do some of our mathematical methods and ready-made projects which touch minds and pocketbooks, but few hearts.
Before the immensity of the needs and the impossibility of meeting them, we must never doubt the value of the little we can do. Rather we are to be always ready to give the Lord our "five loaves and two fish," confident that it will be He to bless and multiply. It is only God's love acting through us, not our programs (which often tend to impersonalise a personal God) that can satiate the thirsting Jesus. "It is only the heart that can touch hearts. We can influence souls only in proportion to our love for them. This is the explanation of the astonishing fact that one sometimes meets priests who are scrupulous in carrying out their religious exercises, but whose ministry remains more or less fruitless. If one turns to them in moments of distress, one finds a mind and a way of life which are conscientious, but no greatness, no openness of heart. All souls, but especially those who are overwhelmed by suffering, have a right to expect in their priest an echo of their own grief. He must have in his priestly heart, therefore, this fire, this love which brings souls to Christ..." (Marmion).
THE UNITY OF THE KINGDOM
In calling us as disciples, Jesus has invited us to a life of communion with Himself. But He has also called us to a life of communion with one another. The one cannot be genuine without the other. Together they form the two obvious characteristics of the life of the Twelve: communion with Jesus and communion with each other. Jesus' great desire is that we be one with Him as He has made Himself one with us, and that we all be one in Him as He is one with the Father: "May they be one, Father, even as you and I are one, may they be one in us" (Jn 17:21). The Trinity wishes to extend "ad extra" not only it's love, but to share also the divine communion which is fruit of that love. In Jesus, the Trinity becomes the source and goal of our own unity and communion. In fact the very word communion speaks of the depth of unity towards which the Holy Spirit urges us who "possess the same Spirit" (1 Cor 12:4). And while we may feel that we work enough, that we are satisfied with the amount we do, we can never say that our unity is enough, for it will ever be a distant shadow of the unity of the Three. And if we are never satisfied with the degree of our unitythen we will want to work at deepening it, becoming channels of His peace, healing divisions through forgiveness and reconciliation, and sharing with our brother priests those many joys and sorrows we too often bear alone. Communion then implies more than just being together, more than mere surface charity, it demands a true sharing of life as among the Twelve, a sharing at all levels of our oneness with God and each other in Jesus. For our charity to become communion it must reflect that opening presence, that deep giving, that deep listening, that deep oneness that is the communion of the Trinity.
As Jesus' priesthood and ours are but one and the same, all of us together form but one priesthood, one body in Him who makes us one. After the Ascension, the Spirit of Jesus continued (and continues) to unite the apostles through the gift of Peter, "upon this Rock" in whom Jesus is Himself Rock. To refuse the unity to which we are called and of which Peter is servant, and to "preach a gospel other than the one we have received" (Gal 1:7) is to witness against the unity of Jesus' one priesthood. The Spirit of Jesus continues to call us to communion, and it is in the gift of Peter that the same Spirit makes that communion possible, practicable and real.
Our invisible communion in the Holy Spirit is to find its visible expression in community, in a deliberate seeking out and living of all the outer consequences of our inner unity. Community gives form to our unity, and provides the concrete means of experiencing and deepening our communion. As the Church, built on the foundation of the apostles, the unity of our priesthood is lived in that community formed around the person and ministry of the bishop. With the Council our Movement heartily encourages those priests who have proposed to live together in the simplicity and fraternity of the early Church, sustaining each other in prayer and ministry through the bond of charity, and rendering more visible still the unity of the local church. It is our fervent hope that the presence of the Movement within any diocese or religious community will be first and foremost a constant force towards unity, that we will ever be servants of unity and builders of community, encouraging above all a concrete love for one's own diocese or religious family. In this spirit the Movement proposes to sponsor days of fraternity and prayer so as to foster this sense of communion in community.
But perhaps the place where our living and extending of the communion of the Trinity is most vital and visible is the parish, the people of God confided to us as microcosm of the diocese and the Church. In making ourselves one with them as Jesus, we are to make them one in Jesus. Their unity will depend on us, on our oneness with Jesus and with them, on our desire, our prayer, our working for that unity. The parish is to be expression of the presence and activity of Jesus in people and place, a presence that depends on unity: "Where two or three are united in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). Our service then is for that unity which allows Jesus to satiate the thirst of our people by His presence within their hearts and within each other, within the community. Jesus in just one is present but invisible, Jesus in the hearts of many who have become "one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32), takes on form and beauty and life. And so in imitation of the Trinity and in union with Jesus, our charity must lead to service, our service to communion, and our communion to community. Here is our vocation: to reflect the Trinity through charity in communion, "that the world might believe..."
MINISTERIAL CHARITY: THE SIXTH WAY
Works of compassion are signs of the kingdom, signs of the God who first revealed Himself in word and deed as being Love: "Deus caritas est." We communicate Christ and we reveal God by radiating what He is - charity - in what we are and do, in words and works of charity. Charity is truly revelation, an incarnating of the gospel. A Moslem mullah, after silently observing this incarnate "love in action" in the Home for the Dying in Calcutta, declared to Mother Teresa: "All my life I have known that Jesus was a prophet. But today I know that He is God... for only a God could give that kind of joy in serving one's fellow man."
"Today I know that He is God..." through works that speak Jesus' words of charity. This radical and joyous charity is perhaps the single most cogent proof of God's existence in our materialistic and pluralistic world in which reasoned arguments alone are no longer capable of touching or changing minds and hearts. "Today people all over the world want to see" (MT). "Above all the gospel must be preached by witness. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world" (Ev. Nuntiandi). St. Thomas' five ways no longer suffice alone for a world starving in its wealth as in its poverty. There needs to be also a "sixth way," the way of charity, an irrefutable argument, a demonstration, a vision, an experiencing through acts of charity of the Eternal God who is Charity. This "sixth way" is in actuality the first way, God's own way of revealing Himself by "having loved us first" (1 Jn 4:19).
As well as revealing God and His love, charity also communicates that love. It not only speaks of God but in a certain sense mediates the presence of the God of whom it speaks. It is not only Christ who receives our charity, but the great mystery of charity is that it is Christ himself who through us performs and is present in that charity, "for love is of God" (1 Jn 4:7). Works of charity are works of God, not only because they become His instruments, but because they are privileged with a special presence of God, precisely because God is charity. "Every work of love brings a person face to face with God" (MT). Charity is in a sense "sacramental": it both communicates and reveals God. It is both sign and seed, both testimony and gift. Works of charity allow us to discover the God of Love who in that charity not only reveals Himself as lover of mankind and filler of our poverty, but in those same acts of revelatory charity loves mankind and fills that poverty.
Precisely because it is beauty, because it attracts, charity elicits a response in kind on the part of the beholder. It invites, encourages, stimulates, becomes "contagious.1 Ideals attract only when they are lived, incarnated, exemplified. Beauty finds its power only when given form, and so, "to learn charity, we need to see it lived" (MT). Michael Gomez, who in the beginning took Mother Teresa under his roof when she was still unknown and living in the street with no help but God, once remarked concerning the contagious quality of her works of love: "Every work has had a simple and humble beginning. Her slum schools: she finds the need for one in an area, a spot is selected, a man is asked to clear the grass, the ground is the blackboard, a stick is used as chalk, the number of children increases, a passer-by is struck and he gives a table, and another gives a blackboard and so on." Charity radiates itself, and is fruitful and self-propagating with the very freshness and vitality of God himself. Only those who have received charity can believe in charity. Only those who have seen charity can believe in a God of charity whom they cannot see. But once perceived, this charity leads not only to belief, but back again to charity, a new-found charity which in turn re-initiates that same cycle of belief-attraction-response in others.
This is our vocation, to reveal God. And this is revealing God, this is proclaiming His presence: to radiate Christ in words and works of ministerial charity that, however small, mirror the beauty of the Trinity. Is Christianity truly the answer to the world's thirst? Or are we to expect another? May our lives and our answer be able to reflect Jesus' own: "Go and tell John what you have seen..." (Lk 7:20).