Deacon Pat Taylor reflects on the reading of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12 and the call to parish members to use their gifts to reach others. Deacon Taylor also emphasises that more responsibility should be given to lay people to reach the public, helping the elderly, sick and young.
Reflection on the reading of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12
Verses 4 – 11:
“There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose. One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given by the same Spirit, another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one the power of miracles; another prophecy, another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses.
Verses 27 – 30:
Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, “good leaders”, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages and interpret them?”
Everyone has their individual gifts in building up the body of Christ.
Today we have to consider the most effective way of establishing a system whereby people will be able to hear God’s calling through the Church.
The word “Ministry” then comes to mind and this word may be interpreted in a wide sense of service to others, or, be used in a narrow sense, the ordained ministry. The effect of this has meant that the ministry of the lay person has lacked official recognition and not been given status. There are services within the community which all perform and have a duty to perform because of our initiation into the community in baptism and confirmation – helping and supporting one another.
In view of the decline in those responding to the call to become priests collaborative ministry is becoming more and more important. Priests have to be prepared to “let go” and not seek to have control in certain areas of, for example, pastoral and catechetical responsibility. It is known that many priests have said they fully support a collaborative ministry becoming effective, until put to the test and they then find it a little difficult to let go. More responsibility needs to be given to lay people.
However, clergy and laity alike should remember that “ministry” must be seen to be associated with service rather than power, control and authority.
Following Vatican II, lay people were discovering new opportunities where genuine ministry could be exercised in bringing God’s word into circumstances which in the past had often been closed off or unexplored. But today it sometimes seems as though little progress has been made.
It is a possibility that large parishes can be divided up in to geographical locations where a lay minister could be appointed in each defined location and be responsible for catechising and visiting people, communicating with the sick and the elderly and having contact with the young at school or college. Such lay ministers would then arrange occasional meetings of parents where Church matters could be discussed on an informal basis, for example, at a coffee evening. This contact would also involve communicating with the bereaved and divorced. Regular liaison could also be arranged as well as organising occasional prayer meetings.
The main objectives of seeing things in this light would be –
* To help people to spiritually grow in stature which can only come about in a meaningful way through smaller groups.
* To foster a community where all find social acceptance in their small groups which should not become merely a social club.
Action: Consider your own parish. Are there any groups of people who are or who feel excluded and whose needs are not being met? How can we use our gifts to serve? Who could take responsibility for this?
Deacon Pat Taylor, St. Joseph’s Parish, Basingstoke
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