As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools…now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the Crucified One.”
Those are words from St. Justin, Martyr who was a second century Christian teacher and, as his title indicates, he gave his life in service to the Gospel of Christ and the building up of the church.
In that quotation Justin spells out very clearly what we have heard in the account of the Acts of the Apostles this whole Easter Season – how the Christian faith transforms people through faith and action. There are no self-made men and women in the Christian Church! Together we were all sinners and violent evildoers; now together we have exchanged swords for plowshares and have become sharers in the future promised by Christ.
Today’s first reading is a further reminder that the faith which Justin gave his life for perhaps less than a century after the Act of the Apostles was written – is a faith that emerges in the experience of accompaniment and mentoring. Priscilla and Aquilla, a married Christian couple and two of Paul’s co-workers in spreading the Gospel take time to further explain to Apollos the teachings of the faith. They mentor him – leading him to a deeper awareness of the Lord Jesus and a deeper level of faith. Indeed, the whole community affirms his ministerial work as well! Some of the work I do in resourcing best practices for lay ministry in our church today is to remind those who are helping to form these ministers for service in the name of the church of the importance of publicly affirming their work in ministry at key moments. Think of how enriched you feel when someone affirms your work; it is especially important in the challenging work of the church – whether in the 1st or 2nd century, or the 21st – that people’s gifts are recognized and affirmed.
And we hear from today’s Gospel that Jesus speaks of the Father as the most generous gift giver! The disciples will be given all the gifts they need to carry on Jesus’ work in the world – the mission that is given by Christ to all of us who are the church. And they should give these gifts in love as they have received them from God in love.
In a church that seeks to call forth, recognize, and affirm the gifts of God given to all the Easter message truly comes to life! Let us pray that we as individuals, and as a church, will always call forth our own gifts and those of others in service of God’s plan for our lives and our world!
God give you peace!