1 Corinthians 3:1-9
"See you in September, see you when the summer’s gone"… So the old rock song goes! September is somewhat distinctive in the American calendar. It signals the end of summer. There is a change in our national mood and mindset. Vacations are over. Holidays abide in our memories. Work in earnest begins. Schools have reopened. Children leave home, when they can afford it, and take up residence in a college or university. The hot, dog-days of August yield to the last month of major league baseball. Rosters expand to 40 players. Baseball vies with professional and college football. Soon autumn’s riotous colors will lead us into our Octobering.
September 1 … It’s all just too busy, too overwhelming. Labor Day weekend is upon us. Even the church feels the intensity. Parishes pick up the pace. The catechumenate, less intense during summer months, seriously probes the message of the Gospel. Christian formation ministers seriously pick up the pace across the generations. Pastors, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers seriously implement plans, programs, and pastoral process. The church seriously gets down to evangelizing, meal serving, and fund raising.
But who’s in charge? Why the hustle and bustle? Why such postures of blessed assurance and self-importance? Does the dawning of the kingdom of God really depend so totally on us for its fruitfulness and flourishing?
Saint Paul reminds the church in Corinth that jealously and rival factions betray the ministry and the real meaning of ecclesial life. Apollos and Paul are merely ministers. Some plant, others water. But God causes the growth. Ministry is about service, not power, prestige, or privilege. God is in charge. God shapes the human heart and knits together virtuous deeds and lives. God uses us as co-workers in cultivating God’s field and in constructing God’s building. The end result is an ethics of solidarity, collaboration, cooperation, and mutual regard. The end result is a spirituality of humility, mutual regard, tender mercy, and table-sharing.
The church should start September by catching its breath. We should resist the temptation to go, go, go. Halt the frenzied activity. Refocus so that the pastoral task and the character of pastoral agents join hands in virtuous living. Refocus so that ministerial teams and volunteers join efforts in authentic and suitable power relationships. Refocus so that an ethics of responsibility and a spirituality of mutual regard reign.
Father John J. O’Brien is a Passionist priest, preacher, writer and teacher. He can be addressed at [email protected].