instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, February 16, 2004

Ministers of Christ

I've been invited to expand on how to be "publicly Catholic," to be "someone whom people look at and know to be acting according to his faith."

That's a bit too practical a matter for this blog. I'm more of an ideas man myself.

So instead, I'll expand on being publicly Catholic per effectum, by the effect it has on others.

Luke 6:26 -- "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way." -- is of course a parallel with Luke 6:22-23:
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
Note two things: first, Jesus is speaking here to His disciples (v. 20); second, He compares the treatment they (which is to say, we) can expect to the treatment prophets, true and false, have received in the past.

I think, taken together, these are significant. In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus does not speak of poverty, hunger, and grief as blessings in general, but as blessings within the context of Christian discipleship. He teaches that those who suffer because they follow Him are better off than those who don't. This alone is worth pondering. What kind of a Messiah says, "If you're poor, hungry, and griefstricken, you're doing something right!"?

On top of that, Jesus compares his disciples to the prophets. Scripture refers to lots of just and upright men who were mistreated by others. Perhaps the reason Jesus referred to prophets, rather than simply to the just, is that His disciples are called to be, not merely just, but prophets.

The threefold ministry of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King is well known, and we give at least some recognition to our participation, by baptism, in His ministry:
"The holy People of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office," above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it "unfailingly adheres to this faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints," [LG 12; cf. Jude 3] and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ's witness in the midst of this world.
Again, how we exercise our share in the prophetic ministry of Christ is beyond my scope here, but look again at Jesus' words on the effect our actions might have on others: If people hate, exclude, and insult us, we are to rejoice; if all speak well of us, we are to mourn.

Now, these are only signs or indications of how well we're doing our job as disciples. They aren't guarantees. I can be hated, excluded, and insulted without being a good disciple. I can be spoken well of by all without being a bad disciple. But if I am hated, excluded, and insulted, I shouldn't conclude I am doing something wrong, and if I am spoken well of, I shouldn't conclude I am doing something right.

Perhaps more importantly, I shouldn't avoid the former or seek the latter as ends in themselves. I might even ask myself whether by coming closer to the former and moving away from the latter, I would be a better disciple of Christ.