One of the opportunities I have as Assistant Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is 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.

Reflections on the Word | Saturday, 29th Week in Ordinary Time – Year 2 | October 27, 2018

In the 2005 document entitled Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, the bishops of the United States expressed their support of the growth of what has come to be known as lay ecclesial ministry – that is, the work of ministry in the Catholic Church done by lay persons – those who are not ordained priests or deacons. While consecrated religious who are not ordained are also considered lay people, this particular document was focused on supporting the development of women and men who minister in the life of the church in many ways. In the Co-Workers document, the bishops affirm that all those who are baptized are “called to work toward the transformation of the world.” While most lay people do this in their day to day lives in their jobs, volunteering in organizations, or giving of their time and talent in other ways, some do so directly in ministry through parishes, campus ministries, ministering to those in prisons or hospitals or in specialized ministries. My work here at the bishops’ conference is helping to develop standards which dioceses and organizations can use to best prepare lay ministers for their ministry.

Many different kinds of ministries in the church are affirmed by St. Paul in our first reading today. Not everyone in the church does the same thing and not everyone has the same gifts – one is an apostle, one is a prophet, one is an evangelist; others are teachers, pastors and so forth. And this is a great blessing in the church!

It is a beautiful image which Paul frequently returns to in his letters – all are  responsible for the life of the church and no one’s gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, are to be ignored, or worse, dismissed or denied. Like all the parts of a body, each one has her or his own gifts to build up the church. 

What a beautiful image to meditate on as thousands are in Rome for the month participating in the Synod of Bishops which Pope Francis called to discuss the current and future contributions to the church of young people. Many faith-filled young people, and other lay women and men, are there, lifting up their voices, and discerning with the bishops, the way in which their gifts can continue to contribute to the life of the church.

The message of the synod, as well as the words of Scripture, remind us that, in the eyes of Christ, all have value and all have gifts which can be used to the benefit of the common good. We should never neglect the gifts of the Spirit present in our midst nor deny them in ourselves.

Yet, sometimes, we may feel like the tree in Jesus’ parable – doing all we can, but finding our efforts don’t always bear the fruit we think they should. We are reminded that the building up of the church that Paul spoke about isn’t ours to do alone; others will work with us and support us, like the gardener who pleaded with the landowner to allow him to give the tree just a bit more care and attention. And, of course, God, who is the source of our gifts, is with us always.

That gardener had a lot of faith that the tree was going to bear fruit! We don’t know the end of the story for that tree, but we can be confident that if we are faithful to affirming and using our own giftedness to build up the life of the church, even in the face of obstacles and challenges, and even suffering, we will be held together by the love of Christ, and build up his body in love and in truth.

God give you peace!