Sunday, August 23, 2009

Call to Be Human, Call to be Holy, Call to Solidarity

Recollection for IHD Ministry Members, August 22

“Ministry can be for us a great source of blessing as well as a great source of temptation,” said Rev. Fr. Michael Chua, as he spoke to the members of the Integral Human Development (IHD) Ministry of the Church of Visitation, Seremban in a one day recollection that took place on August 22nd. During the sessions, time of prayer and small group discussions, the 40 over members of the various ministries under the IHD umbrella were led to reflect on their vocation and the challenges thereto.

The story of Jesus’ baptism and the ensuing narrative on his temptations in the desert were used to highlight the central point that our call is not defined primarily by what we do but by our relationship with God. Being “called” and being “chosen” is synonymous to being named “the Beloved of God,” our truest identity. The temptations of Jesus are invariably temptations that lead one to believe that our identity and self-worth are defined by possessions, popularity and power, the three fundamental temptations which all others can be collapsed into. In contrast to the temptations of the devil that may accompany every ministry, Jesus calls us to humility, powerlessness, vulnerability and poverty. This is practically embodied by the Church in its promotion of the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity.

The call to ministry is ultimately a call to be human, for “to be fully human is to be fully divine.” Therefore, the ministry of IHD is a crucial reminder that any ministry in order to be holistic must address every aspect of a human person that is integral to him, be it spiritual, physical, social, psychological, material etc. The call to ministry is also a call to Christian holiness. In the OT, we have the idea that in order to effect a relationship with the divine, it was necessary to isolate things and persons from their ordinary use. But the mystery of the Incarnation in the New Testament gave an entirely new perspective to this understanding of holiness. And so in Christianity and the NT, the sacred is realized not by isolation but by communion between God and man effected by the initiative of God reaching out to man in order to share His life with him. Such an incarnational model of a life of holiness will then result in a paradigm shift that views itself as a life that embraces freedom rather than mere obligation; a life that immerses itself in the world rather than one that withdraws from it; it affirms life rather than negates it; it is dynamic rather than static; its about being (the Beloved of God) rather than doing something in order to earn that accolade. This sacred action ultimately leads and even compels man to communion, the third aspect of ministry. Ministry is a call to communion, solidarity, compassion, vulnerability, collaboration and finally to community.

At the end of the day, the members of the IHD ministry were invited to recommit themselves to the goals of IHD process, namely, a ministry that promotes the good of every person and of the whole person, especially of the poorest and most neglected in the community, where every person meets their basic human needs and where all persons are empowered to free themselves from everything that is dehumanising. In order to do this, they need to undergo several paradigmatic shifts, from viewing the human person in a fragmented way to one that recognizes the unity of his whole being; from seeing ministry as mere maintenance to one of mission; from individualism to solidarity; from regarding the objective of their work as mere hand-outs to one which will engender holistic change; and finally from viewing their ministry as social work to one which genuinely promotes integral human development.

The IHD Commission of the Church of Visitation is made up of the following ministries, Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Tuesday Meals, Urban Poor Ministry, Migrant Ministry, Orang Asli Ministry, Human Resource Ministry, Prison Ministry. Emmaus Visitation Counselling Centre, and Parish Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

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