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Ministry: The Means of the Vowed Life and Communal Sharing

Sr. M. Theresa Mộng Huyền, FMSR

In the article, “Ministry Rooted in the Vows”, (from Paths of Renewal For Religious; edited by David L. Fleming, S.J.), the author, Mary T. Rattigan, clearly gives us the whole picture of ministry, not so much as the giving of something such as time, service, or money but the giving of oneself. Mary Rattigan, C.S.J., also informs us that the three elements necessary for the carrying out of our mission, the mission of the risen Lord, simply stated, are:

  1. To announce the new life which Christ makes available for us in the here and now
  2. To give credibility to this announcement by our lifestyle
  3. To extend God’s love and power by our actions.

Based upon these three elements, we can come to a common understanding that ministry does not begin when we go to proclaim the Good News in the workplace during our apostolic year; but begins when we live-out the Good News and religious vows in our community and home during our entire life-time.

Seen as a sacrament, ministry allows us to be presented as God’s  transforming love and power in the world. Like Jesus during his ministry, we too are designated to make visible the presence of God to all people. Through our vows, we share with those around us our availability and creativity. For example, by the vow of chastity, a religious commits oneself to deepening one’s relationship to the Lord, and at the same time, understands to manifest this love in her relationship with others. In addition, the vows also help us with the capacity to both receive and to give. Like Jesus, who was “shaped by his ministry in that he allowed himself to be moved by the others, to take in the truth of each situation”, we too are asked to follow Jesus’ way of suffering love to allow persons and events to enter our life so as to shape the responses we make. Thus in our vowed-life, we are called to respond whole-heartedly to every situation. In  Hebrew, we find the quote, “Although he was Son, he learned to obey through suffering…” Here, we can sense that Jesus’ obedience was a personal growth which extended over his lifetime. As that of Jesus, the obedience of religious also consists of this gradual growth in faith of God and love of neighbors. Unless we undergo the same suffering-love, we will not be able to answer “Thy will be done” as Jesus did when faced with misunderstandings and struggles. Hence, the vow of obedience allows us to remain faithful to our mission of Serviceto listen to the direction of the Spirit, and to endure the tensions which will open us up to see persons and situations as indicators of God’s maniíbld gifts.

Finally, the vows free us for the works of the kingdom. Because “the vow of poverty implies a freedom from ourselves (detachment) and a single-heartedness (attachment) for the Service of God’s kingdom”, we can devote everything we are and have to others. Likewise, in the context of acommunity, our ministry and vowed-life must suppliment one another and be for the Service of others. Simply stated, we live our vows and perform our ministry not for our own benefits, but for the sake of the kingdom. Recall the Scripture passage of the Last Judgement Day when we will be judged according to what we have plone for the least of our brothers and sisters (Mt. 26:31-46). Applying this passage to our vows and ministry, we can come to believe that we can not enter the kingdom of heaven alone. “It is not those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ who will inherit the kingdom but only those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Lk.7: 46).

To conclude, we can say that unless our ministry is rooted in our vowed-life and vice- versa, our works will be to no purpose and meaning. And unless, we allow God’s love and power to personally transform our lifestyle (vowed-life) and actions (ministry) we will not inherit the Kingdom.

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