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The Ministry (4)

Pope Shenouda III | 10 January 2009

 The Spiritual Minister (cont'd)

 A spiritual minister is a very attracting magnet.
Whoever comes within his sphere will be attracted to the life of the spirit, and will also have power to attract others to the same spiritual sphere. He attracts people to God their Father and the church their mother with all the emotions of kindness, love and care which she bears. So they hold to God who loves them and are nourished with the teachings of the church.

 A spiritual minister has the living and powerful word of God (Heb 4: 12). 
It is the word that influences the listeners and never returns void (Isa). He shines upon the others with light, and whoever comes into contact with him will be enlightened and will receive something divine. He is a blessing overflowing over everybody, not only within the church, but also at home, in the workplace, and even on the way. He is a minister wherever he goes; ministry to him is not confined to a certain place or time (2 Tim 40) or to formalities. The spirit of the ministry to him makes him serve whoever he meets or deals with. He does not care about being a successful teacher, for this means focus on the ego, but all his concern is the salvation of the souls of those whom he serves. In his deep caring about them he forgets himself, as if saying with St. Paul the Apostle, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." (Rom 9: 3)
 
   A spiritual minister struggles continually with God for his children. He pours himself before God so that God may lead the ministry and give him the spiritual food necessary for him and for his children and the power to walk in the Lord's way. He keeps wetting God's feet with his tears until he receives response for his prayers for the benefit of those whom he serves. 
   In all this he also is sacrificing; he sacrifices himself and his comfort for the others. A spiritual minister is a faithful person who labors with all his power for the ministry, putting before him always the words of the Scripture, "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully." (Jer 48: 10) He labors so that he may deserve that God works with him, and seeing his humiliation and labor bears the whole work for him. Therefore the Lord responds to the prayers of the father priests when they entreat Him to take part with His servants in work.
 
   A spiritual minister does not rely on his own abilities, but on the gifts of the Holy Spirit who works within him.
   He is a mere tool moved by the Spirit to serve the Kingdom. He is always in communion with the Holy Spirit who works within him, with him, and through him. He is filled with the Spirit; when he speaks it is not he who speaks but the Spirit of his Father who speaks in him (Mt 10: 20). In this way Christ's disciples worked as ministers of the word, so their words had power and fruit.
 
   A spiritual minister grows continually in the love of our Lord Christ, and is always in a higher level than his pupils in knowledge, love, and attachment to God.
   He is not merely training himself in the life of repentance, but rather in the life of perfection. And the more he feels humble seeing that the way is so long before him, the more he feels continual need for God's support.
 
   A spiritual minister's main objective is the spirituality of his children.
   His lessons are therefore rich and practical, attaching those whom he serves to God. They trust his words as if they were God's words, because they are sure that he receives from God and gives them. On the contrary are the ministers who lost their spirituality and acquired only the outer appearance of piety rather than its power. 
 
   A spiritual minister never lets worldly matters absorb him away from his spiritualities. And if he continues focusing on his own salvation it may end with him in complete devotion to the Lord's ministry, that is, consecration.
 
   A spiritual minister does not feel that he gives something.
   Every time he goes to the ministry he feels that he is receiving something new from God. He takes more than he receives. Ministry for him is a means and a spiritual media which he has to continue using and which gives him strictness and caution far from offences. 
 
   A spiritual minister throughout his ministry leads a life of discipleship.
   He does not think that his discipleship has ended when he became a minister in Sunday Schools, a teacher or a preacher. He continues as a disciple, learning and experiencing something new every day, and from his experience he speaks to those whom he serves. He has experienced life with God and the way leading to Him, so he guides people to that way which he himself has experienced for a long time, knew its marks, wars, obstacles and blessings, and above all God's hand in it. He tells them all that in an objective way far from the ego.
 
   Discipleship to the spiritual minister is a long way, which I shall expound in detail when speaking about humbleness in ministry.
 
   A spiritual minister is far from egocentricity. 
   He is not occupied with his self in the ministry. In his spirituality, his self has died a long time ago and he nothing to focus on except God's Kingdom, the spirituality of his pupils, and their comfort and service.
 
   He is a person whose will has united with God's will.
   His only will is to realize God's will: that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2: 4). He has no private will, but he works with God to realize the divine will in himself and in his children. He works with all his emotions, his will, and the power given him. God's Kingdom is his main concern for which he works day and night. He feels the amount of responsibility on his shoulders and the value of the souls entrusted to him by God for which he will give account before the Just Judge. Therefore he walks with honesty and seriousness, not only for the sake of the responsibility, but also for the love and caring he feels towards those whom he serves. 
 
   A spiritual minister is a great heart holding everybody and not getting bored of anybody.
   He is a wise and faithful steward who God makes ruler over His children to give them their food in due season (Lk 12: 42). To him applies the words, "He who wins souls is wise." (Prov 11: 30) In his wisdom he is experienced in the human soul, its nature, inclinations, wars, falls, troubles, and sufferings. He recalls the words of St. Paul the Apostle, "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also." (Heb 13: 3)
 
   A spiritual minister is a kindled flame of fire in the ministry.
   He is fervent in spirit (Rom 12: 11), kindled with the holy fire that enflamed the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. He does the work of the Lord with fervency, with all the heart, with all the desire, and with all zeal. He is faithful in his ministry even until death (Rev 2: 10). He finds pleasure in labor and in working with God. The Holy Spirit works within people for their own salvation, and the spiritual minister works with the Holy Spirit for the same purpose, as St. Paul the Apostle said about himself and Apollo, "We are God's fellow workers." (1 Cor 3: 9) We take part with God in work, or rather we become tools in His hands through which He works.
 
   A spiritual minister keeps his spiritual childhood (Mt 18: 3) and refuses to wean himself from the breasts of teaching.
   He continues reading and learning, and though his disciples grow he always has something new to provide them. He is like an ever green tree that never fades nor has its leaves fall, but ever flourishing and blooming. He does not give from himself, but what he receives from the Spirit, that he gives, saying to the Lord: 
   "I have given to them the words which You have given me." (Jn 17)
 
   He always kneels down requesting from the Lord for his children their daily nourishment. He says to the Lord, 'I do not want to give them from my human mind and ignorance, but the words You put on my mouth these I will give them.'
 
   He is sensitive to the words of the Lord, distinguishing His voice and revealing His will to the people. His ministry is wrapped in prayer, because it is not human work. 
 
   A spiritual minister cares about the spiritual nourishment of his children; he takes his little flock to the waters and the green pastures to feed them among the lilies (Song 6: 3).
   He cares about their spiritualities rather than about filling their minds with knowledge. Nevertheless he does not neglect knowledge, but he takes from it what builds the spirit and the mind.
 
   A spiritual minister speaks about a theological, dogmatic, or liturgical subject in a spiritual way.
   On the other hand an intellectual minister turns even spiritualities into theories and views and sciences! Some ministers began with the spirit and completed as scholars providing knowledge and organizing views void of the spirit. Their words have no more such spirituality that impacts people and attaches them to God!!
 
   You ought then to be spiritual ministers for the sake of this generation where knowledge increased and spirituality decreased.
   The past generations were much different, where the ministry centers were like dovecots cooing with the song of the divine love!
 
   There is still much to say on the same topic, but let that be on the coming weeks, God willing.    
 
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