“For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them.” (Rom. 12:4-6)
The members of the local church community make up the Body of Christ, and as with a human body, the Body of Christ has many different members and all the members are important. They each serve a unique and necessary role in the proper functioning of the body. God does not call everyone to be a hand or a foot or an eye in the sense that not all are called to be apostles or teachers or administrators. Instead, each is given a gift, and when everyone uses their gift and supports one another in harmony and concord, then the Body of Christ functions in a healthy and salvific way.
Looking at this truth in another way, consider a pond. From above, the pond looks still and stagnant. When the wind is calm, there is almost no discernible movement on the surface of the water. If the pond is healthy and teeming with life, then there must be new and fresh incoming water feeding the pond and a steady flow of outgoing water exiting the pond. If we were to study more carefully the anatomy of every healthy pond, we would notice at least one current flowing through the pond, connecting the incoming and outgoing creeks. This keeps the water circulating throughout the pond, supplying abundant oxygen to the plant and animal life and keeping the pond from stagnating and becoming overwhelmed by things that are unhealthy and toxic. We are in a way like a pond: we need to be fed by fresh input, which is accomplished through study, prayer, preaching and teaching, the sacramental life and other such things. We also need to have healthy output, to put into action what we are learning. This is where our participation in ministry becomes so important. Having a ministry enables us to use our gifts and to gain valuable experience and wisdom by testing and applying our knowledge. In this way we exercise our faith and cultivate obedience to Christ’s commandments. There exists a healthy balance of input and output, preventing stagnation and keeping the grace of God circulating within us.
At St. John the Baptist we want to take this principle seriously. This is why we speak about strengthening the core while reducing the periphery. This means that as a community we need to strive to be better at two things: First, our ministry leaders need to invite every single steward to use the gifts and talents they have declared (either on their Stewardship card or at the Stewardship Fair) to be an active part in a ministry where they can use those gifts for their own salvation and for the building up of the Body of Christ. Secondly, each steward needs to have a ministry; we each need to respond in the affirmative when we are asked to participate and/or proactively seek out a ministry of the parish where we can use our gifts. The goal at St. John should be that every single member in good standing of the parish should be active in some ministry or committee and no one should be part of the periphery.
The goal of one hundred percent participation is not unrealistic. For this to become a reality, we must seek to recognize our gifts. We do not have to do this on our own. Rather, we can ask our family, friends, co-workers, spiritual fathers and God for help to understand our gifts better. We might also need to evaluate our lifestyle and do some simplifying and reprioritizing to make room for another commitment. For many of us, adding one more thing to an already full and busy life is overwhelming if we do not at the same time take something of a lesser priority off our plate. In most parishes, the norm is that eighty percent of the work is done by only twenty percent of the members. My prayer for our church community is that one hundred percent of the work would be accomplished by one hundred percent of the people. In this way, we would truly function as a healthy and integrated Body where each of us felt important, necessary and able to express our own unique gifts and personalities in an essential way for our own salvation and for the positive and productive building up of the entire Body of Christ.