April 26, 2012

On The Way Rejoicing

I love the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch as it comes to us in the first reading for Mass today. (Acts 8:26-40) It's just such a mysterious story. Why was an Ethiopian making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem? If he was a eunuch in the physical sense, would he have been allowed to visit the Temple? (See Deuteronomy 23:2) Where did he get a copy of Isaiah? Was he reading in Hebrew or Greek?

We don't know these things for sure. For me this is a reminder that in any encounter with another person, and in a ministerial encounter especially, we come into the presence of an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, a creative work that was going on before we got there, and will continue when we are gone. Each person is a particular journey that the Holy Spirit is creating in the world, and to which we may become present for a shorter or longer time. Ministry, then, is just reverence for the operations of grace in another, and perhaps some assistance in naming them and taking the next steps that God reveals, if and only if we ourselves have been given the grace of such a ministry.

I also love how the Spirit disappears Philip after the eunuch's baptism. Letting go is so important in ministry. There's always the temptation to make disciples for ourselves rather than for the Lord. Some disciples cling to teachers because personalities are easier to follow than the living God, but this is a failure in courage. Some teachers cling to the work of grace in their disciples as if it were partly their own possession, but this is a failure in chastity. Whenever the economies of grace invite us into reverence and care for the work of the Holy Spirit in another, there will come a point when we are called to let go and thereby confess that the salvation we have served in another is God's work and not our own.

1 comment:

Terry Nelson said...

The last paragraph is a gem and a very fine point. Thanks.