In my experience of working with permanent deacons, many applicants to our formation program confess that they don’t think they’re worthy enough to answer such a high calling. They often say this as if such a belief is a bad thing. In reality, however, it’s a good thing. It means that a person is approaching ordained ministry with reverence and humility, and not with pride, indifference, or a sense of entitlement. To be a deacon is a wonderful privilege. But it is also a great responsibility. To him whom God has given much, much will be expected.
I think we see this reflected in today’s gospel. Jesus spoke very stern words of judgment to certain scribes and Pharisees. Here, as always, Jesus harshest words are for those in religious authority. Jesus could be very gentle with thieves, prostitutes, adulterers, even his own executioners. But he was very different when dealing with religious authorities- the bishops, priests, and permanent deacons of his day.
He held them to a higher standard, because they should have known better, and because their attitudes, practices, and beliefs harmed many other people’s relationship with God. Think about what we have seen and experienced in our own day: If ministers are arrogant or lazy, their parish suffers; if they teach false doctrine, the sheep are led astray, and divisions are created; if they cause a scandal, the church is wounded, and the world laughs.
Today’s gospel should challenge all ministers of the gospel to be always mindful of the great trust God has placed in them. Indeed, it should challenge all the baptized, because through that sacrament we become public witnesses to Christ. This shouldn’t fill us with fear, because God is merciful and all things are possible with him. But it should fill us with awe for what God expects of us, and commit us to do his will and seek his kingdom above all else, that we might be faithful servants of the one who came only to serve.
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101311.cfm
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