Tuesday, December 4, 2018

True Ministry

1 But, as a help to you, we exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says: “In a favorable time, I heeded you; and on the day of salvation, I helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 May we never give offence to anyone, so that our ministry may not be disparaged. 4 But in all things, let us exhibit ourselves as ministers of God with great patience: through tribulation, difficulties, and distress; 5 despite wounds, imprisonment, and rebellion; with hard work, vigilance, and fasting; 6 by chastity, knowledge, and longsuffering; in pleasantness, in the Holy Spirit, and in unfeigned charity; 7 with the Word of truth, with the power of God, and with the armor of justice to the right and to the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, despite good reports and bad, whether seen as deceivers or truth-tellers, whether ignored or acknowledged; 9 as if dying and yet truly alive; as if chastised and yet not subdued; 10 as if sorrowful and yet always rejoicing; as if needy and yet enriching many; as if having nothing and possessing everything. 11 Our mouth is open to you, O Corinthians; our heart is enlarged. 12 You are not narrowed by us, but it is by your own inner selves that you are narrowed.
2 Corinthians 6:1-12

This passage is quite interesting because the word ministry, or minister in the English translation is actually diakonia or diakonoi respectively in Greek. Reflecting on this passage can give us a clear idea of what a deacon is expected to do.

In the last two verses of the previous chapter, we see Paul say this:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, so that God is exhorting through us. We beseech you for Christ: be reconciled to God. For God made him who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the justice of God in him.

Paul calls himself an ambassador of Christ showing God, pleading through Paul, calling people to be reconciled with him. The word reconcile has an idea of being one, restoring what was broken, in this case, it is our relationship with God and ourselves who are broken. This gift of reconciliation is given by God, which is why Paul begs the Corinthians not to receive this gift in vain. Do not waste this grace God has given. Respond to it. God is giving it NOW!

As Paul gives this message, he says May we never give offence to anyone. The word offence does not mean we should not offend anyone. The Greek word means cause others to stumble. When we serve, or act as deacons, our service should not cause others to stumble. It should not lead others to sin. When we lead others to sin, either by our word or actions, we degrade our ministry (diakonia).

Paul then says Let us exhibit ourselves as ministers (diakonoi) of God with great patience and he enumerates how we are to do this through (the meaning of the Greek word is given in italics after the English word:
  1. Tribulation - pressure, burden, anguish. Ministry is difficult. This is our responsibility. It is not to be done only on our spare time, but we need to make time for ministry.
  2. Difficulties - necessity. We serve even if we do not have the resources. We do what we can with what we have. 
  3. Distress - narrowness of room, calamity, anguish. We work through limitations that we have.
  4. Despite wounds - figuratively, calamity, plague, stripe. We serve even when we are hurt or in the midst of destruction. We serve those who hurt us also.
  5. Imprisonment - guarding. When people are suspicious and guarded, we continue to serve, proving to them by our actions and words, the Truth of the Gospel.
  6. Rebellion - instability, commotion, disorder. When things around us are chaotic, or in disorder, we trust in God. Jesus said that when the heavens and the earth are in turmoil, we lift up our head because our redemption is drawing near.
  7. Hard work - cut or toil, weariness. We push on despite our weariness. When things seem pointless and our work seem to bear no fruit, we trust we are doing what God wants.
  8. Vigilance - sleeplessness. We are on guard, protecting our hearts from evil and deceit of the enemy. We protect those who are entrusted to us, from being deceived by false teaching.
  9. Fasting - lack of food whether voluntarily or involuntarily. When things need to be done, we may forget to feed ourselves or we can consciously fast for those we serve.
  10. Chastity - purity. This is one of the criteria that is sorely missing today in light of the Church scandal. Those who commit the abuses forgot their vows to remain celibate for unmarried or to remain chaste for married ministers.
  11. Knowledge - knowledge. We need to learn more about our faith. It is the responsibility of the minister to read and reflect on Scripture, to read books written by authors who are faithful to the Word of God and the Teaching of the Church.
  12. Longsuffering - patience. We endure all these things and push on courageously.
  13. Pleasantness - usefulness, excellence. We cannot settle for mediocrity. We give our all in our service. We cannot compromise the Truth.
All these we do:
  1. In the Holy Spirit. We serve, guided by the Holy Spirit. We always remember, it is the Holy Spirit that works and we respond to him.
  2. In unfeigned charity. The word unfeigned means false, pretentious. Our love must be sincere, meaning we desire the good of the other person. Love is NOT making the other person feel safe and unoffended. It is desiring the good of the other.
  3. With the Word of truth. To love sincerely, we need to speak the Truth as taught by Christ through Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. We cannot compromise the Truth.
  4. With the Power of God. We rely on the power of God. Our service is God's service.
  5. With the armor of justice to the right and to the left. We do what is just from every perspective. If we try to manipulate the law, looking for loopholes, this is not justice.
We serve:
  1. Through honor and dishonor;
  2. Despite good reports and bad reports;
  3. Whether we are seen as deceivers or truth-tellers;
  4. Whether ignored or acknowledged.
In the end, we serve whatever other people think of us, whatever the circumstances. 

Our service should show:
  1. As if dying and yet truly alive;
  2. As if chastised and yet not subdued;
  3. As if sorrowful and yet always rejoicing;
  4. As if needy and yet enriching many;
  5. As if having nothing and possessing everything.
Our service should give life, victory, joy, comforting others and letting them know how to be united with God.

May we serve God in all we do for the glory of his name.

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