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The Ministry (16)

Pope Shenouda III | 4 April 2010

Positive and constructive work
  In our spiritual life and in our ministry we should focus on constructive and positive work. However, we must be aware that while in communion with the Holy Spirit we edify ourselves and the others, the devil interferes with contraries that are capable of driving us away from our spiritual constructive work. A wise person should not permit any passive matters to occupy or detain him from positive work. A person should continue on his way and avoid endless struggles through which he may lose his spirituality and ministry, and his constructive work may come to a stop.

 Actually, the Lord Christ Himself, during the period of His incarnation on the earth, has laid for us the rule of positive work and for avoiding passivity. When He started His ministry there were many offences in the society, offences on the part of the leadership whether scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, priests, or elders, as well as on the part of Herod, Pilate, the tax collectors and their chiefs, and others. The Lord Christ did not waste His time in bringing them to account for their faults, but He replied to any questions they addressed to Him. He devoted all the time to constructive work: to preaching, teaching, compassion on the sick, the sorrowful, and the needy. He "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil." (Acts 10: 38) He went about all Galilee, "teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people." (Mt 4: 23) He kept saying to them, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk 1: 15)
  He was occupied with teaching people and giving them the care they needed. When he saw the multitudes, "He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Mt 9: 36) He preached on the mountain, amidst the fields, on the way, in deserted places, at houses, on the shore of the lake, and everywhere although He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk 9: 58).
  He did not waste His time solving the problems caused by the tax collectors and the oppressive way they collected money, nor with the acts of Annas, Caiaphas, and the synagogue, but He was totally occupied with the people, with teaching and caring for them. In this He gave us a practical example that instead of cursing or fighting darkness we can light a candle, and darkness will disperse. 
  Some would ask how we say that the Lord was not occupied with passive acts while He rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, saying, "Hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in … How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Mt 23: 13, 33) And to the priests He said, "The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." (Mt 21: 43) He also resisted the Sadducees and the lawyers (Mt 22), cleansed the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, and said to them, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." (Mt 21: 12, 13) 
  In fact, the Lord did all this in the last week of His ministry, between Palm Sunday and two days before the Passover (Mt 26: 2), a few days before the Golgotha, to change the leadership so that the church might not be under their authority. It was necessary to change leadership before His crucifixion. On the other hand, along the years of His ministry all His concern was positive work, taking care of people and forming new leaders to receive from Him the keys of the kingdom. Throughout those years He did not fight those corrupt leaders, but was rather fought by them. He answered the questions they addressed to Him to correct them. The Lord gave us a wonderful parable on the kingdom that contained spiritual teaching, i.e. the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. He said that an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, the servants of the owner suggested that they gather them up, but the owner said, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest … First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them." (Mt 13: 25- 29
  Indeed brothers, it is not your task to gather up the tares but to grow the wheat so that the Lord see your fields full of harvest and gather up thirty fold, sixty fold, and a hundredfold and His barns be filled. Such is the positive useful work, but if you occupy your time with gathering up tares, you will become nervous and lose your spirituality. You may even fall in various faults like those who in the name of correcting the others insulted, condemned, and defamed others. They fell in anger and nervousness, malice, shouting, and offending others by their words. While they were gathering up tares, they themselves became tares! While struggling, their spirituality was lost and their ministry stopped. They became stumbling blocks, giving no good example nor making corrections. The wisdom of the Lord Christ came true, "lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them." Furthermore, if the Lord has said this about the true tares, what can we say about those who think the wheat tares due to their weak eyes? They fervently gather up wheat and leave tares in the field! When the owner of the field comes, he will find nothing to gather up and put in his barns!  
   Be then wheat and do not be occupied by gathering up tares, for those who are concerned about this usually lose their inner peace, humbleness, meekness and peace with the others. They are always angry, annoyed, and aroused. They attack the others and speak only about the faults and the dark points seeing everything dark and gloomy. They turn into sparks of fire burning everything violently, and while they think of the sins of the others they forget their own sins!! A Spiritual person therefore ought to be occupied with edifying the kingdom in meekness and peace, love for everybody and humble heartedness.
  Your task as a minister is to edify, as St. Paul the Apostle says, "Let all things be done for edification." (1 Cor 14: 26) Who builds always rises high, but who destroys always goes down. Beware while you gather up tares lest you uproot the wheat that is in you and in those whom you serve. Sow wheat everywhere and choose the best seeds. Sow the seeds of love within the hearts and say a word of comfort, hope, and benefit even to the wicked. Try to win them by love, but do not submit to the wrong or flatter them who do wrong lest you turn to the opposite. Do not waste your energy in passive things, for the devil is ready to provide you with such things that may engage you everyday!! He is ready to provide you with rumors, news, problems, conflicts, and annoyances and reveal to you secrets and thoughts which if you give room to them in your mind you will get nervous and depressed. Say to yourself, 'What have I to do with all this? My whole time is devoted to ministry. I cannot use the time devoted to God in discussing passive things.' I shall give you an example from our modern age, late nineteenth century and early twentieth, there was serious weaknesses in the ministry. There were no preachers or educated priests. As a result, the other denominations grew at the expense of the church, and internal divisions and conflicts increased. Some began to insult, hurt and criticize. Some entered into conflicts with the church that reached courts and cost enormous sums. Others kept weeping in sorrow for such a condition.
  All this availed the church nothing, for the church did not benefit from criticism, hurting, divisions, lawsuits, or crying. How then reform did take place. It took place through positive work in which Habib Guirguis the leader of church ministry in the twentieth century believed. He did not involve himself in the weaknesses of his age, but dug a foundation and put in it two stones: the Seminary, and the Sunday Schools. He continued building until the building rose high and a big number of ministers were prepared to work in preaching, teaching in churches, in meetings, in Sunday Schools and in villages. He kept chanting in his heart, 'Let your people with blessing be thousands and tens of thousands doing Your will.' He did not criticize the deficiency but provided the church needs.
 Seeing that the church lacked preachers and most of the father priests used to read the sermons from books because they had no ability or efficiency to preach, he did not criticize them or fill the world with tears, but began preparing preachers and ministers. He encouraged the seminarians to institute establishments for preaching which branched into 84 branches in Cairo, Guiza and their suburbs. He found that children and youths have nobody to teach them, he did not criticize the church but established the Sunday Schools, which spread everywhere. He began to compile books to be taught in the general schools and in Sunday Schools.
  When he found that the protestant songs began to have room in some meetings, he compiled songs based on the church hymns. He served in every field, so people now forgot all the passive aspects and remembered only the positive and constructive work which Habib Guirguis introduced giving through it a practical lesson.
  Here I quote a phrase from the Book of Genesis: "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep." (Gen 1: 2) What did the Lord do? He did not curse darkness, but we read that, "The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." He also did not say, 'Let there be no darkness,' but said "Let there be light; and there was light." (Gen 1: 3) And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness (Gen 1: 4). He even calls upon us to be light, saying, "You are the light of the world." (Mt 5: 14) If we do become light, then darkness will disperse without need to curse it. Constructive work remains for our benefit, and positive work is all profit with no loss to us or to the others. However, there are people who see only darkness and cannot see the white aspects nor speak about them. They even search for it to focus and criticize it, but in all this, they lose their cheerfulness, meekness and inner peace. When they talk about darkness, those who listen to them lose their peace and their joy and see only a dark earth void and formless earth. The eyes of the critics cannot see the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters nor hear God's voice saying, "Let there be light; and there was light.
 How beautiful are the words of the Scripture! "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news … who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation." (Isa 52: 7; Nah 1: 15) The New Testament began with angels announcing salvation and bringing good tidings, saying, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (Lk 2: 10) Would that through your ministry you bring people joyful tidings!
  People have enough suffering and pain and need a word of comfort that give them hope. So open for them windows of light, and if you did not fine any light, God forbid, be yourselves light to them. Do positive and constructive work that may provide people with joy. Be then like Noah's dove that returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf, so Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth (Gen 8: 11).
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