Being Present (June 27, 2016)

Many years back, I had the good fortune to spend a year at the Institute for Spirituality and Worship in Berkeley CA. The plan was to come back to Fatima Retreat House to engage in the ministry of giving retreats and all that goes with that. Three-quarters of the way through the year, the Provincial changed his mind, and I ended up on the staff at our Novitiate in Colorado. Best laid plans and all that.

I will always remember something that was said in the opening conference of that year. The program director said that most of us probably came to the Institute to learn “how to do” stuff how to give retreats, how to do spiritual direction, how to plan and implement meaningful worship experiences, how to do this that and the other thing. But, she said, that’s not going to happen. “We’re not going to teach you techniques of ministry. We’re going to help you discover yourselves, because YOU are the best technique for your ministry.”

Obviously, those words have stuck with me all these years. Several years later my spiritual director phrased it another way when he talked about the importance of a “ministry of presence.”

Certainly that is what Jesus had in mind when he sent the 72 disciples out on mission. They were to take nothing with them. Their mission was to bring the peace of the Kingdom of God to every place they went. They did it not with flowery scholarly speeches, not with programs or handbooks, not with surveys or polls. They were simply to be themselves: merciful, compassionate, happy, enjoying being with others, loving the folks to the best of their ability. Any unique talents they had were to be used to give life to others. “Just bring yourselves,” said Jesus. “Who you are and what you are will proclaim the presence of the Kingdom.”

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