GDC 50: “The ministry of the word in evangelization”

Pope Paul VI figures prominently in this section, too:

50. The ministry of the word (126) is a fundamental element of evangelization. The presence of Christianity amongst different human groups and its living witness must be explained and justified by the explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ the Lord. “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed”. (127) Those who are already disciples of Jesus Christ also require to be constantly nourished by the word of God so that they may grow in their Christian life. (128)

This is not a surprise. Christ is the center of Christianity. It makes sense that the proclamation of Christ underlies every preliminary effort of what we believers say and do.

It must also be emphasized that the proclamation of Christ does not produce a finished product in a believer. The expectations are that those in catechetical ministry provide this “constant nourishment” and that believers are, in turn, open to continuing conversion.

Two important things to remember …

The Word of God is not mere history:

The ministry of the word, within the context of evangelization, transmits Revelation, through the Church, by using human words. These, however, always refer to works: to those which God has done and continues to do, especially in the liturgy; to the witness of Christians; to the transforming action which these Christians achieve, together with so many men of good will, throughout the world. This human word of the Church is the means used by the Holy Spirit to continue dialogue with humanity. He is, in fact, the principle agent of the ministry of the word, the one through whom “the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church—and through her in the world”. (129)

Ministries of the Word are varied:

The ministry of the word is exercised in “different forms”. (130) The Church, since apostolic times, (131) in her desire to offer the word of God in the most appropriate manner, has realized this ministry in the most varied of ways. (132) All of these, however, perform the essential and fundamental functions of the ministry of the word itself.

(126) Cf. Acts 6:4. The Ministry of the Word of God is fostered in the Church by:
– the ordained ministers (cf. CIC 756-757);
– members of institutes of consecrated life in light of their consecration to God (cf. CIC 758);
– the lay faithful in light of their baptism and confirmation (cf. CIC 759). In regard to the term ministry (servitium), it is necessary that all reference be made to the uniqueness and to the source of all ministry which is the ministry of Christ. To a certain extent this applies also without ambiguity to the non-ordained faithful. In the original meaning, it expresses the work with which the members of the Church carry on the mission of Christ, both within the Church and throughout the world. However, when the term is distinguished from and compared with the various munera and officia, then it should be clearly noted that only in virtue of sacred ordination does the word obtain that full, univocal meaning that tradition has attributed to it (cf. John Paul II, Allocution at the Simposium on “The Participation of the Lay Faithul in the Priestly Ministry” n. 4, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 11 May 1994.

(127) Evangelii Nuntiandi 22; cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 51-53.

(128) Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 42-45, 54, 57.

(129) Dei Verbum 8c.

(130) Presbyterorum Ordinis 4b; cf. Christus Dominus 13c.

(131) Many diverse forms of this single ministry appear in the New Testament: “Proclamation, teaching, exhortation, prophecy, witness… this richness of expression is notable.

(132) The forms through which the ministry of the word is filtered are not in reality intrinsic to the Christian message as though to imply that diversity of form connotes different messages. These are, rather, accentuations or tones more or less explicitated and adapted to the situation of faith of each person or group of persons in their concrete situations.

A word on note #126 …

Are lay people usurping the role of the ordained? I’m not convinced the hierarchy’s worry on this point is accurately diagnosed or adequately addressed.

Generous human beings in both the clergy and laity bring a certain … enthusiasm to their efforts in ministry–or service, if you will. I’ve often seen individuals appropriate the ministry of others in ways undiscerned or inappropriate. Most often this is a matter of local concern: one individual who requires a better formation. And sometimes that individual is a priest.

Granted, it can be difficult to see a needful task go undone, or performed very poorly. But detachment in the face of mediocrity is a difficult quality to master.

My own sense is that each believer has a set of spiritual gifts that, for her or him, are the highest calling. Speaking for myself, being a composer is a higher calling than, say, being ordained.

Pope John Paul II is right to acknowledge all ministry as sourced in the action of Christ. If we accept this, no ministry is “ours.” It is inspired by God. Gifts are the seeds sown in each of us. We apply these gifts as given. The only practical hierarchy involves the gifts we’ve been given placed above those we do not possess. This is a lesson all believers, even the clergy, would do well to absorb and apply.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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