Monday, January 21, 2013

The Role of the Ministries of the Word

Next Sunday, (3rd Ordinary Time) provides an ideal moment to reflect on the ministries of proclamation of the Word. In the Gospel we will encounter  Jesus standing in the Synagogue proclaiming from the scroll of Isaiah. Prior to that iconic moment, we have been set up to make connections. In the first reading, we hear of the awe of the intergenerational assembly, "men, women, and those children old enough to understand," as Ezra proclaims the Law of God from a wooden platform in an open place. In the second reading, we hear Paul speak of discernment of the various gifts in the community, including the ministries of the Word:
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
(I Corinthians 12:27-30)
Taken as a package, this is a ready made opportunity to talk about who in the community is sharing their gift to preach and teach the Word. It might be an ideal time to call attention to the ministry of the reader at Mass,  of the deacon and priest as lectors and preachers, and to catechesis as a ministry of the Word.

The General Directory for Catechesis notes

The ministry of the word is a fundamental element of evangelization. The presence of Christianity amongst different human groups and its living witness must be explained and justified by the explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ the Lord. "There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed". Those who are already disciples of Jesus Christ also require to be constantly nourished by the word of God so that they may grow in their Christian life. 
The ministry of the word is exercised in "different forms". The Church, since apostolic times, in her desire to offer the word of God in the most appropriate manner, has realized this ministry in the most varied of ways. All of these, however, perform the essential and fundamental functions of the ministry of the word itself.
The ministry of the word, within the context of evangelization, transmits Revelation, through the Church, by using human words. These, however, always refer to works: to those which God has done and continues to do, especially in the liturgy; to the witness of Christians; to the transforming action which these Christians achieve, together with so many men of good will, throughout the world. This human word of the Church is the means used by the Holy Spirit to continue dialogue with humanity. He is, in fact, the principle agent of the ministry of the word, the one through whom "the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church—and through her in the world". (50)
Catechesis itself, the General Directory tells us, "is that particular form of ministry of the word which matures initial conversion to make it into a living, explicit and fruitful confession of faith.” (82)

The readings of the weekend call us to reflect on who the people are in our communities who are  called to the ministry of the Word in its different forms: primary proclamation in the gathered assembly, initiatory catechesis, continuous education in the faith, the liturgical function, and the theological function (GDC 51-52) As we hear about the ministry of proclamation and the gifts in the community next weekend, let us give thanks for the various people in our communities who have been called and gifted for proclamation of the Word.

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