Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Ministry of All Christians: Being "Christ Connectors"

"You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
 but that I was sent before him. 
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; 
the best man, who stands and listens for him, 
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. 
So this joy of mine has been made complete. 
He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:28-30)

These words of John the Baptist from today's Gospel for daily Mass were spoken to his disciples when they raised the question about Jesus performing baptisms across the Jordan from John. It would appear that they were concerned that Jesus was "stealing John's thunder"! John makes the comparison that Jesus is the bridegroom and he, the "best man." In order to help his disciples re-shift their focus from John's importance to Jesus', he states that it is to the bridegroom (Jesus) that the bride belongs (in the context of this story, the "bride" is the Israelite people). John's ministry, therefore, like the role of a best man at a wedding, is to help "connect" or bring bridegroom together with bride. John has done this through performing baptisms at the Jordan and linking this ritual action with the core message of, "repent, for the Kingdom is at hand." Because of his ministry, many are prepared to now be "connected" to Jesus in a life-giving, transformative way. John is now prepared, in a sense, to "get out of the way" of Jesus' ministry and declares this by stating, "he must increase, I must decrease" (in importance and relevance). John the Baptist's response to his disciples provides some insight into the ministry that all Christians are called to.

I recently had the opportunity to give a brief talk on priesthood to a group of persons discerning a possible call to this way of life. One of the ways that I described the priestly ministry is in terms of being a "Christ connector." At times in our Catholic tradition the ordained minister has been viewed as a "mediator" between the faithful and God or Christ. By "Christ connector" I very definitely don't mean that an ordained priest "mediates" between the faithful and God or the faithful and Christ. The only "mediators" between God and his people are Christ and the Holy Spirit. The role of priest, and, for that matter, the priestly role of all the faithful, is better described as "Christ connector." Like a best man at a wedding, a "Christ connector" helps bring someone into contact with Jesus, and, once this is accomplished, "gets out of the way" in a sense so that the relationship can take "center stage" and develop on it's own terms. This doesn't mean that the "Christ connector" doesn't continue to play a role, it simply means that, like John the Baptist, they "decrease" so that the presence of Christ in the other person can "increase." Pat, TOR