FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 3RD WEEK OF EASTER
THEME: THE THEOLOGY OF ‘MINISTRATION’.
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Act 8 : 26 – 40, Jn 6 : 44 – 51.
Contemporary theology is faced with a number of burning challenges ; In the area of Liturgy ( We have seen revised editions of our missals), In Spiritual theology ( we are seeing new kinds of spirituality and devotions springing up here and there), In the area of pneumatology and demonology ( we are seeing a number of weird spiritual experiences in the form praying in tongues, prophetic utterances and sporadic falls/ body movements all in the name of the Holy Spirit.
Charismatics have in recent times coined this word ‘ministration’ which connotes a special manner of praying over people in order to have them either receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit or release from demonic obsession/ possession.
In today’s 1st and 2nd readings, the role of a minister is being emphasized. And who is a minister in this context, if I may ask? The one who helps another to receive spiritual assistance like Philip did for the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Ministration can come in several forms ;
(i) Ministration of the Word/ Homiletic assistance ; Here, like Philip did, one can help a fellow believer or unbeliever understand deeper the message of the scriptures. Philip asked the Ethiopian Eunuch : ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He answered : ‘How can I unless someone guides me?’ This is why homiletics has remained the practical life wire of any Church. When the Word of God is poorly expoused in a Parish/ Church, that Church dies gradually.
(ii) Ministration of the Sacraments ; (a) We have the sacraments of initiation ( Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), by which members are inducted into the Church. (b) We have the Sacraments of healing/restoration ( Penance and Anointing of the Sick), by which members are brought back to health when they are sick. (c) We have the Sacraments of Vocation ( Matrimony and Holy Orders), by which members are finally configured in their permanent state in life as clerics, religious or married men and women. All these require the assistance of ministers.
(iii) Ministration of Life in the Spirit revival ; Even after having received these sacraments, one needs to be assisted towards a constant renewal of the anointing already received, 2 Tim 1 : 6 – 9. This also requires a minister. That is why we have retreats and Life in the Spirit/ Growth in the Spirit Seminars.
(iv) Ministration of Deliverance ; Sometimes a believer or unbeliever can be demonized completely ( possession) or partially ( obsession). He or she may require a deliverance minister at this point to help liberate the individual from the power of evil spirits in his/ her life.
The Ethiopian Eunuch asked a sensitive question at a sensitive point in time as he was receiving his ministration from Philip : ‘What is to prevent my being baptized?’ We can as well ask a similar question today : What is to prevent someone from being baptized, from receiving communion, from having the Eucharist celebrated at his burial, from receiving the sacraments of holy orders or matrimony? These are pastoral problems that I cannot handle here now. But one basic impediment from reception of all the Sacraments is lack of faith and requisite catechesis.
We need trained experts ; skilled helpers, so to speak, both clergy and laity in every Parish who can always assist in ministering to the people of God both in season and out of season. Everything cannot be left for the priests, yet their roles must not be usurped by lay people. Almost all the Sacraments require the presence of a priest, but lay people should help in preparation for them. Today’s gospel says ‘They shall all be taught by God’. How ? Through human ministers.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO