Monday, April 26, 2010

A Ministry of Gatekeeping

From time to time I tell people that as vocation director for my community, I not only am on the "look out" for good vocation prospects but that my ministry also involves "gatekeeping". I understand this aspect of vocation ministry as exercising a certain caution to ensure that only the more well-rounded and stable prospects join the community and become ministers in the Church. Such an emphasis is exceedingly important given the abuse scandal that the Church continues to live with. However, Today's reading from the Gospel of John gave me a new appreciation of the ministry of "gatekeeping" that hadn't occurred to me before (John 10:1-10). In the Gospel Jesus talks about how a shepherd "enters the sheep gate" to lead his sheep to pasture in distinction to those who "climb over elsewhere" in order to do the flock harm. Further on in the Gospel he states, somewhat surprisingly, that he is comparing himself to the gate rather than the "good shepherd" (which we normally associate him with). Unless the sheep pass through him they will not find pasture. What might be the role of disciples who are called to help shepherd? This may be discerned through the mysterious gatekeeper mentioned in today's Gospel: the gatekeeper opens the gate so that sheep and shepherd can pass through it. My broadened appreciation of "gatekeeping" as a ministry is that it's also a powerful analogy of letting people pass through and into. In the case of today's Gospel, "gatekeeping" could be seen as assisting others to pass through and into Christ, crossing the threshold from difficulty, distress, and even despair into a life of hope, transformation, and, ultimately, resurrection. So many in our world stand at troubling and exceedingly difficult thresholds in which they fear they are teetering on the brink of despair. With the right pastoral and "gatekeeping" presence on the part of those who are also in the process of passing through and into Christ, they can be assisted in making the ever more profound journey from death to life. Pat, TOR