by Demi Prentiss
Sometimes, I think, we think of ministry as a grand, “big deal” enterprise. We think that unless we’re getting immunizations and passports for faraway destinations, we couldn’t possibly be on mission. That’s for saints, and ascetics, and people who sleep on the ground and kill their own food. Or at least go days on end without a shower.
The truth is that once we’re baptized, we’re actually everyday missionaries, “on mission” wherever we find ourselves. We are partners in God’s plan for transforming that moment and that place. Just most of the time, we’re blind to the potential. We aren’t able to see where God is at work and calling us into partnership, in the place right in front of us. Or – chilling thought – we choose not to see.
The brothers in the Society of St. John the Evangelist remind me often that we have great transformational potential, even when we’re not really paying much attention. Every place we find ourselves, and especially in our most day-to-day transactions, God offers us opportunity to incarnate the Love that God has sent into the world. As God told the angels who fretted about human-kind’s ineptitude, “There is no Plan B.” And sometimes, partnering with God is as simple as encouraging another person.
SSJE’s Brother Curtis Almquist sees that our judgment of ourselves often lacks the grace of Jesus’ loving, redeeming judgment:
We are graded in life, first by others, then by ourselves. And no matter how good we are, we always could have been better. If left to our own devices, our own mean judgments, we will almost inevitably score poorly. We could have been, should have been better, don’t we know. There’s no way out of this downward, internal spiral, which can become viral, unless we are rescued by love. It’s otherwise hell, all the way to hell. We are secretly condemned and sentenced to a lifetime, an eternity of inadequacy, failure, and estrangement unless we are rescued by love: someone who will bequeath dignity, worth, recognition, and gratitude upon us because of who we are and what we do.
We simply cannot grasp this alone: that we are precious, and amazing, and of inestimable value unless this truth is mirrored into our being by another person. We need others’ help to know we are forgivable and forgiven. We cannot save ourselves. We need to be saved from hell every day. We need to give and receive support and encouragement for one another as “daily bread.” This is not a one-time need, but rather our ongoing need for the intervention of love for ourselves, mediated through other people…..
The only way we can grasp Jesus’ judgment of love is through the hands, and hearts, and words of other people who are the channels of Jesus’ intervening, liberating truth. Jesus will reach us through other people. That’s the only way. We need daily support and encouragement from others or we are left to ourselves where we become, simultaneously, the judge, the jailer, and the prisoner in solitary confinement. We need one another to mediate Jesus’ light and life and love for us….
Who might you encounter today, who might be encouraged toward wholeness by your baptismal witness?