‘Neither the planter nor the waterer matters; only God, who makes things grow’
While Bp. David was delivering his talk to the Alumni, I was quite busy roaming around preparing for the Eucharistic celebration. I wish I was one of those persons sitting there to listen to the bishop’s talk but even then, I was able to grasp inspiring thoughts from that conference. One point that stirred me was his honest confession ‘matagal na akong nag-hohomily pero para bang may kaba pa rin akong nararamdaman, and I don’t know where is it coming from… then one day I realized, that the fear that I feel comes from the thought that my preaching is not about me but God’s own message’
In today’s reading we hear this community in Corinth, gifted with faith yet seemed to be a divided community that struggles to achieve spiritual maturity. Their immaturity bridged occasions of jealousy and quarrel that even reached the point of rivalry. They always compared themselves with the other group – they who belonged to Paul and they who were followers of Apollos. St. Paul reminded this community that the minister is not the determinant of fruitfulness in the Lord; they are all ministers, mere representatives and that each of them is simply doing what the Lord has willed them to do.
Jesus, in our gospel today, experienced the same attitude that was shown by the believing community of Corinth. People looked for Him and when they found him, they prevented Him from leaving. The people wanted to own Jesus for they found hope in Him. It created in them the feeling of confidence for having the change to belong to this kind of leader. Perhaps this is a normal tendency of a believing community who finds a rare and extraordinary kind of minister. Yet for us future ministers, this situation is going to be tricky when people will try to ‘own’ or ‘take hold’ of us. What makes it more complicated is when we find ourselves becoming very comfortable where we are and with the people entrusted to our care. The tendency to stay in a place of comfort is so strong especially when our needs are fueled by the kind of treatment that the people are showing.
Today, we are reminded to gaze at this man we long to follow and to listen carefully to him whose burning desire was to follow the will of His father “To the other town I must announce the good news because that is why I was sent”. Bp. David in his talk on Priesthood as Sacramental leadership emphasized that, priesthood is an outward sign of the unseen leader. Ang pari usa ka-representante sa dili makita nga pagkapari ni Kristo. Presbyters should be mindful that they are not made for themselves but rather sent in the service of the Kingdom. For us, priests to be, I think we need to put this in our hearts and minds, that whatever we do always points to Christ, the one we are following. We should not forget that our presence and actions must point to Him whom we dare to imitate.
In our apostolate areas we usually gain new acquaintances, new friends, and a new community. There, we may experience that the people confidently connect to us, perhaps not because of our greatness and physical attributes but maybe because of our unique identity, that is, being called to be a future minister of Christ standing in behalf of God in their midst. Priests do not own their parishioners, they do not own the liturgy, and they do not own their priesthood. They are sent to represent the priesthood of Christ. With Paul we ask, who then is Apollos, who then is Paul, who then are our priests? Who then are we – seminarians? We are ‘simply ministers’ or plant waterers’ and only God causes the growth.
But our consolation is that we are not just representatives. We also participate in the mission of Christ in our own limited way. We are God’s co-worker. The moment we leave our own boundaries and comfort zones to be in touch with the people in our apostolate areas - when students feel delighted by our presence in schools, when we visit the cold, difficult world of our brethren in prison cells and other rehabilitation centers, when we listen attentively to a teary-eyed Sendong survivor who gradually find new meaning in life because of our presence. These and many more, are our little share of Christ’s sacramental leadership, our privilege, our mission.
As we participate in the mission of Christ, may we also feel the kind of fear that Bp.David felt in his heart. I believe this is a healthy fear, knowing in the depths of our hearts, that who we are and what we do points to Christ, the One we represent. It should never point to us. Our priestly vocation is not about us. Our mission does not stop with us. As we live each day, may our lives be transformed into a sacramental presence, a sacramental life patterned after the Lord’s own life.