FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
CALLED AND EQUIPPED
Jesus does not call someone and fail to equip him/her. One day a friend of mine phoned me to inform me that she has been appointed as Superior of her religious congregation. She lacked the age and experience for such an office. Being a leader of a group of nuns is not child's play; it can be tough. After a long conversation, I suggested to her to spend much time with the Lord in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, if nothing at all for divine consolation and assurance (because that is where I derive my strength). After about a month she called me and said: “…the grace of the office will be enough…the Lord will not abandon me, for those He calls, he equips…and my other sisters who are going to serve as counselors will be of great of help; for God’s work is a collaborative ministry and not a work for a single person.”
Jesus highlights collaborative ministry in today’s Gospel account. Remember Jesus is God and he can make and unmake anything just by a word. Technically he did not need anybody to help him to accomplish the task that his Father gave him but he saw the wisdom to work with others. He did not only call the seventy-two and send them away in twos but he equipped them.
In modern Christian ministry Jesus has given us a great example that we cannot do it alone. We seem to be having dictator religious leaders all over, at times giving the impression that they are the only people that God has called. When Jesus received his mandate from his Father, no disciple was with him but when he started his ministry he introduced the collaborative ministry style. Collaborative ministry is the way to go.
I am not so much concerned with leaders calling people to share in a particular ministry whether in a parish or diocese but what I have a heartbeat for is: equipping people with the requisite skills and logistics for them to succeed in assignments given to them. Jesus did not just call them and send them away to work but he equipped them with powers to work. And because Jesus equipped them, when they returned the disciples reported news of great successes that were beyond their imaginations. This is what make parishes and dioceses succeed.
Calling of God’s people and equipping them to work effectively was part of the motives of Pope St John XXIII and Pope St Paul VI for the Second Vatican Council. If one can find time to read Christus Dominus (decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops), one can find out that the council Fathers urged Bishops to employ collaborative ministry. They were encouraged to equip lay people to help them in their ministry. The Church is not all about clerics; some lay people can equally be effective in pastoral ministry.
At times when regular clerical office holders fail, God calls other people outside the regular clerical circles and equips them to serve his people: the first reading seems to give such an indication. When Amos was called, Amaziah became so jealous that he wanted to force him out of the territory; for as others see God’s work as a vocation some see it as a profession to amass wealth. Listen to what Amaziah said to Amos: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There, earn your bread by prophesying…” and Amos responded: “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” Brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are having a lot of “Amaziah-like” men of God in our world today who think only of their stomachs and wealth. Do you know the number of African men of God who own private planes? It has now become a competition between some of them. The sad thing is that these private jets are not being used for the work of evangelization. But thanks be to God we still have many “Amos-like” men of God who have been really called and equipped. Their joy is only to serve God’s people.
In the Second Reading we get a glimpse of the eternal character of those “Amos-like” men of God. The great opening of the letter to the Ephesians places the person chosen by God into God’s all-encompassing, timeless plan of salvation: what I am and what I shall be has been set out from eternity, before the creation of the world. Neither as an individual nor merely within time am I called, rather I exist as someone already fitted into a predestined comprehensive design consisting in Christ’s Incarnation, the glorification of the Father’s loving grace, and the Holy Spirit’s seal. No man is an island, rather, each is comprehensible only as he is embedded in an unsurveyable landscape in which everything is radiant with the “praise of the glory of the grace” of God. Pray for your priests; for men and women in the service of the Lord.
(You may read Christus dominus on the Vatican website. Click HERE.)