Sunday, September 27, 2015

How to Serve Our Lord in Church Ministry...

• Prophet Zechariah: Our Lord says, “But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst… See I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord.” (Zech. 2:9,14)
• All of us have been invited to the Kingdom of God. But where is it? This place, this Church, this sanctuary where God’s glory is truly present is only the beginning of God’s Kingdom. And it isn’t the end either. Some of us treat the Church like that… like going to it and then we have made it to the end, and then we go home. No, it is not the end. Our Lord wants to reveal to your heart that this is just the BEGINNING of His Kingdom! We should always remember this. When the Pharisees asked Our Lord when the Kingdom of God was going to come, He answered: “The Kingdom of God is already at hand… (It is already here)…. It is WITHIN YOU!” (Luke 17:20-21)
• All that you see in the church’s sanctuary and all the beauty and the magnificence and awe of God’s presence in the Tabernacle and the glory that is yet to be revealed in Heaven… We need to realize that Our Lord wants all of that glory to become present to you now… and for you to enter INTO IT.
• It is very easy to come to church and minister as if it were simply a matter of routine. Before you even enter the door of the church, stop and pray. Pray and prepare your heart for what you are about to enter into and what you are about to do for Him. Think of Moses before approaching the Mountain of the Lord where He revealed Himself in the burning bush… as he approached the Lord, God called out to him: “And He said: do not come closer, take off the shoes from your feet: for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) We need to do the same before we enter Our Lord’s dwelling place. Not that He is asking us to take off our shoes, but rather… prepare yourself before you come before Him. Realize you are about to enter His dwelling place and realize what you are about to do for Him in His service. Furthermore, realize that all of this that you see and touch… all the ways that you serve and minister… the sanctuary, the music, the serving… all of it points to a deeper reality that Our Lord wants to take place within you, for YOU are God’s Temple and His resting place. Ask Our Lord to open your heart, in all that you do here, to the reality of how He wants you to live… and for Him to live within YOU. Don’t leave Him here! Take Him home with you. This is the meaning of the Eucharist! The Kingdom of God is within you!
• I remember my ordination to the diaconate which was at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church here in Corpus Christ, Texas. Everyone left except for me and a family that I am close friends with. Well, they had a little daughter named Savanah and as her father and I were talking, little Savanah came up to her dad and started to tug on him. He looked at her and asked what she wanted. She answered, “Daddy, there is somebody in the church and you need to go and see.” He looked at her and smiled and said, “Savanah, we were the last ones out of the church. There is no one in there.” So, she started tugging on him some more. This time he was getting a little upset. She looked at him intently this time and said, “Daddy… there is somebody in there and you need to go in and see.” He was thinking someone may have had an accident or something or is hurt so he better go and take a look. He went back into the church and walked back to the sacristy door but it was locked. He knocked and no one answered. He then went into the men’s restroom and then into the women’s restroom and called out just in case someone fell or was hurt… again no response and they were both empty. He finally got frustrated and came out and said, “Savanah! I told you there is nobody left in the church. The church is empty!” She looked at him and said, “Daddy, Jesus was in there and you didn’t even see Him!”
• God understands how easy it is to get accustomed to a routine without realizing Whose Presence we are coming before. We are in the flesh and we don’t recognize what is UNSEEN. But Our Lord wants you to open your heart to the reality of what we believe and to find Him and rest with Him rather than just get distracted from His Presence by all the activity.
• “In the course of their journey He came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to Him speaking. Now Martha, who was distracted with all the serving, came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha’ He said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
• Here’s the problem… we serve and get distracted by what we are doing… we go to church, we pray, we serve, and then we minister… and then we… and then we…. and then we missed Him. This is Martha… Mary knew Who it was who was coming to visit her and she recognized Him and sat right down before Him at His feet and remained there. This is where Our Lord wants you… to rest before Him… and not to leave. But how can you do this if you are serving and ministering? Ha! And there is a simple solution…. Look to the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach you this gift. Mary is both Mary and Martha at the same time. She never ceases to have her heart before Our Lord and resting in Him no matter what she is doing. When the Angel Gabriel came to her, do you know what she was doing? She was resting in prayer at Our Lord’s feet and waiting for Him and just resting in His Presence in her heart. But she was doing this all the time… when she did the dishes, doing the laundry, putting the clothes away, visiting with anyone… her heart was always resting in prayer before Our Lord no matter what she was doing… this is why it really didn’t matter when the Angel of the Lord came to her because she was always ready to receive Our Lord or His messenger anytime of the day or night.
• You know, I used to hate, really hate, doing dishes. Then Our Lady asked if I would come and do the dishes with her. To rest with her, to speak with her, while I did the dishes. She was teaching me already how to enter into this gift with Our Lord by teaching me to do this with her first. Now I run to do the dishes. I can’t wait to get there because she is always waiting there for me. But it really isn’t about her. She wants us to have this gift with her Son. To KNOW without a doubt that He is here waiting for you in prayer.
• Mary’s heart was a cave where Our Lord was present. You need this gift and you can learn how to enter into this gift with Our Lord through the prophet Elijah. Our Lord told Elijah to go to a certain cave and to wait there and that the Lord would be passing by. So Elijah went the cave and waited for the Lord… a great storm came… but the Lord was not in the storm… then a great earthquake… but the Lord was not in the earthquake… then a rushing wind, but the Lord was not in the wind… then there was a gentle breeze… and Elijah took his cloak and hid himself for he knew the Lord was passing by. You see… he waited for the Lord to come… he waited for Him to manifest His Presence.
• Here is the key to open the door to the cave of your heart. You have to make an act of Faith. We all say, “I believe the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. I believe this.” But it is completely different from saying “JESUS is here! It is Him! He is here in the Eucharist!” One is pointing to the reality from afar… It is almost as if you are saying you want to believe this… to hope it is true… but that is not Faith. FAITH is the CERTAINTY of that which we believe… I don’t believe this or that… I have to allow my Faith to bring me to the reality! Faith is grasping it, touching it… accepting it and embracing it, entering into what is unseen. This is Faith. Think of what you say in the Creed… “We believe in what is visible and what is invisible.” Now the question is, do you? BEFORE you even pray, before you even start… quiet your heart and wait for the Lord to come. Wait for Him to manifest Himself before you. Be still and know that I am God. Once He comes and you are aware of His Presence, then you enter into prayer.
• Before Our Lady conceived Our Lord in her womb, she conceived Him in her heart because her heart was silent and waiting before the Lord… He always rested in her and she rested in Him… and then the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. Our Lady wants to teach you how to enter into this gift in your heart….and once you receive Him, don’t allow Him to leave.
• You know, there was a time when Mary and Joseph were leaving Jerusalem with their family and they were looking for Jesus but couldn’t find Him… So, they went in search for Him. Where did they find Him? In the Temple… But did they leave Him there? No. Because His Mother said this… “Your father and I have been searching for you. And Jesus was OBEDIENT to them and went home with them.” (Luke 2:41-51) They did not leave Him in the Temple. Did you know that Jesus is obedient to you? You can leave find Him here in the tabernacle, you can find Him here in the Church and you can find Him in prayer in the Temple of your heart and you can leave Him there… But He is obedient to you. Jesus wants you to take Him with you when you leave. Don’t leave Him there once you find Him in the Temple. Don’t leave Him there and abandon Him after you find Him in prayer. Take Him with you. I was thinking back when I was serving in one of our missions in North Dakota and one of our priests, Fr. Pinto, who had a close relationship with Our Lord, was asked a question by one of our young volunteers. She asked, “How long after I receive Jesus in the Eucharist will He stay within me?” He simply responded, “How long will you let Him?”
• Now on to the next point…. If you were invited by Our Lord to the Last Supper, how would you serve and care for Our Lord? If He invited you to read the Word of God, how would you read it? If He asked you to take His chalice, His vestments, asked you to greet those coming through the door… How would you serve Him? Serve Him in the way… as you are always serving Christ and serving in His Presence.
• “…and He got up from table, removed His outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it round His waist; He then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing. {Now, remember the disciples didn’t know ahead of time that Our Lord was going to do this. Some of them were barefoot already and you don’t know what they stepped in that day… or what was on their feet and in-between their toes... foot fungus, warts… and all! But Our Lord doesn’t see all that… I mean He does, but He sees past all the mud and grime of our souls… He through it all and see you and me… and He is not afraid of touching it, washing it all, and kissing your feet} He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter. ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have no share with Me.’ Simon Peter said, ‘Well then, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has had a bath needs washing, such a person is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray Him, that was why He said, ‘though not all of you are.’ {We must be very, very careful here that we do not enter into ministry for Our Lord nor receive Him in Holy Communion if we are unclean or have unclean garments. We should be properly dressed not only on the outside, but even more importantly on the INSIDE! We should be washed clean in the Sacrament of Confession if we are conscious of any serious sin before we serve Our Lord and come before Him. Find another minister to replace you and do not feel offended by this… rather realize it is more important not to offend Him whom you serve} When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments again, He went back to the table. ‘Do you understand,’ He said, ‘what I have done for you? You call Me Master and Lord, and rightly, so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done for you. In all truth I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know this, blessed are you, if you behave accordingly.’” (John 13:4-17)
• Be aware of how Our Lord serves you. He is not afraid of getting down at your feet and washing your feet, grime, scabs, fungus, warts and all. With the same love, gentleness, kindness, and softness you should have the same care and love in serving everyone whom Our Lord places before you.
• Your service isn’t about here… Our Lord has called you to serve Him and follow Him in your life. Your life should be a reflection of your service in Christ. “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, but do not do the things that I ask?” (Luke 6:46)
• By what mark can people look at you and know that you are a servant of Christ and His Church? What marks you as such? Is it by what you do? The mark of a disciple is not in what you do… “A new commandment I give unto you. That you love one another as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this they shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Live this as an example for others… how you great others coming through the door, how you live at home loving your spouse, your children and grandchildren, your co-workers… your in-laws and outlaws… everyone who comes across your path. You know, God places come of them as scouring pads… not to get you mad and angry but rather you cannot shine without them! They help you to grow in kindness and charity… you cannot grow without them. Like weight lifters… if you are not challenged by what you are lifting, always raising the bar a little higher, you will not get stronger. The same is true in relationships with others. You cannot grow in love if you only love those who love you… love your enemy…then you will grow in love and be a disciple. This is how Jesus loves you and you have been His enemy every single time you seriously sin… and yet He still is not afraid of getting down on the floor and washing your feet. Have the same love for others.
• Think of Jesus teaching you how to serve. How would He do it? With what care, gentleness, etc. Let Him teach you how to serve.
• “My people worship Me with lip service, but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matthew 15:8) We need to be very careful that we are not doing this with Our Lord… giving Him lip service. Again, it is very easy to go through the routine of our daily life and not think about what we are doing or saying… the same can even happen at Mass before Our Lord. If you do not mean what you say to Him, you should not say it.. It is like in confession when people say the act of contrition and they just speed through the words like it is a race of something and have no clue to what they actually mean or who they are saying it to, as if it were just going into sin air. Rather than just saying it, why not close your eyes, see yourself literally at the foot of the Cross where Jesus is hanging, dripping His Blood and then look into His eyes, knowing that He is there because of what we have done by our sins… then say the words from your heart. This is the key… speak to Him from your heart and let that flow through your lips to Him. We should enter the Mass like this. Like the Amen. Sometimes we just say it out of habit without even realizing what we mean… it means… “I believe this! Yes, it is true!” That is an AMEN. So, give your heart to Our Lord and worship Him in spirit and in truth.
For Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion:
It is your role and ministry to bring Christ… physically present to the sick and the homebound as well as assist the priest in distributing Our Lord within Mass. How should you care for Our Lord? Treat Him as if you were with the shepherds at His birth and you join them in going down from the hill country into Bethlehem. The Blessed Virgin Mary points you out of the crowd and asks you to come forward. She reaches into the manger and holds her newborn Son and then places Him in your arms. How would you hold Him? Always treat Jesus like this… you are not just carrying a “host”… you are carrying Him Who is in the host.
• Furthermore, be attentive to the sick and homebound who are entrusted to your care. Treat each of them with dignity as you would coming before Our Lord as He is suffering on the Cross.
• Ask how you can serve them in Christ. Ask if they need to go to confession and if they seem to be getting worse, call the priest or arrange for the priest to go and visit them. Ask them and serve them in Christ. Don’t treat it like you are just dropping something and then leaving.
• It is your role to minister in regards to the Word of God. Remember this… the Word of God did not stay on paper! The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. This is not like reading any ordinary book. Prepare yourself by slowly reading the passage beforehand and then think of it like this… you are invited to enter into a mystery… to enter into what you are reading… to see it and experience it. Place yourself there and make it come alive. How would this person speaking actually have said this? See them saying it and then proclaim the Word. You should read the Word of God like this… by drawing others into the mystery… not just reading it like it was some event that happened long ago. Make it present. 
• It is your role to see Christ in everyone who walks through the door of the church… to, even more importantly, assist Jesus in the elderly and disabled… to be the smile and kindness of God… and for women ushers… to be the warmth and affection of the Blessed Virgin Mary for her children… be the smile of Jesus for everyone.
• Music Ministry:
• Your ministry is this… think of yourself coming before the Glory of God in Heaven and all the angels are there before Him in all of His Glory… as you enter, you will hear the glory and praise and the psalms being sweetly sung… as you get even closer you will hear the angels begin the Gloria! And then, as you get even closer, there will be a softness and gentleness that leads further still into complete silence. We must remember that there are nine choirs of angels and those closest to Him remain completely prostrate and in silence as they behold the mystery and can do nothing else. When you sing with the angels, remember this… not one of them wants to stand out or seek recognition or have the main stage… all of their focus is completely directed to the Lord and to His Presence… join with them and ask the angels to teach you how to draw the rest of the Church into this mystery that lies before you… in the same manner and degree that the angels do.
Altar Servers:
• I always tend to view each of you as “knights of the altar”. Knights realize that they are in the service of the King and because of this, they have to continually remember whose presence they come before and whom it is they are serving. For a knight, it isn’t just about their role of service… their entire life has to be a reflection of the King in dignity, in keeping a life that is honorable and just, a servant for others (not just at church… but also in your home with your family… your brothers and sisters… mom and dad, in your community, at your school, with your classmates and friends, when you are hanging out, etc.). You are always a servant of the King and are His faithful followers and would never do anything that would compromise the dignity of the One they serve. Also remember that everything you touch and use belongs to the King and be aware of the manner in which you serve Him.
• St. Padre Pio was alone in his prayer chapel when he noticed the spirit of a young boy dressed as an altar server came forward and started to clean around the altar very carefully and lovingly. He asked the little boy what he was doing… the spirit of the little boy responded: “I did not take care of the things of the Lord while I was alive, so He is letting me do this now.” 
Questions for Reflection/Examination of Conscience for Confession:
• Have I ever doubted Our Lord’s Presence, didn’t believe it, or just come and serve with a disrespect of His Presence? Have I ever treated the church like He is not here?
• Do I make time for silence and prayer in my daily life? Do I honestly try to listen to His Voice and seek to be directed by Him in my daily life?
• Is my daily life (when I am at work, with my family, my friends, at school, etc.) a reflection of my ministry at church? Do I witness Christ by the way I live my life and by the way I treat others?
• Do I honestly try to prepare myself for ministry so that I can minister well? Do I do ministry just out of habit and routine or do I try to be aware of not only what I am doing, but also Who I am doing it for?
• Are there times when I entered into ministry when I shouldn’t have because I was improperly dressed or was living in a state of serious sin, or have receive Our Lord in the Eucharist unworthily?
• Do I honestly try to live with Christ in how I treat others and serve Him in them?

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