Ministers should exhibit contagious joy

By Mary Ann Otto | Special to The Compass | May 14, 2014

I had a front row seat to a display of “service with a smile” at the Easter Vigil this year. I enjoy going to this inspirational Easter celebration for so many reasons but am always amazed at how many ministers are necessary to make it a success. Often, I am able to observe some of the good stewards of service that I might not encounter because I am a regular participant at a certain liturgy on the weekend.

Though liturgy and worship are just one important area of parish life, there are so many ways to encounter those who serve in our parish during this incredibly joyful event. The celebrant, deacon, lectors, commentators, servers, musicians, choirs, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, greeters and ushers all bring their unique talents to this peak celebration of our liturgical year.

This year the one experience that has played over in my mind and brought me to writing this column is one of the extraordinary ministers of the body of Christ. I’m not sure of her name but she was this lovely woman wearing a red blouse. From the moment she stepped down from receiving Jesus at the altar and finding her way to the step where she was going to distribute, her face beamed. At first I thought perhaps she had heard or thought of something that was humorous or maybe knew the people who approached her, but as I observed her I witnessed something different.

By her demeanor two things became obvious. First, she was honored to be in that ministerial role and then, she was excited for others to receive Jesus on this important night. Truly, it reminded me of someone who could not wait to give you a very special gift. As I approached her for Communion, I was reminded at the moment of the precious gift I was receiving. I’m sure I was smiling as well when I returned to my seat. The way she served in the capacity of extraordinary minister changed my experience. I was surprised and delighted.

So what was the difference? No doubt she seemed to have a generous and loving personality but I believe her service reflected a relationship with and an understanding of who Jesus is and what he accomplished for her. On the special evening of the Easter Vigil, how could she possibly not share it with others? As I was leaving, I asked a few others if they had the same experience. They did.

Our church is so fortunate to have volunteers in so many areas of parish life. People come forward with their talents as catechists, committee and council members, ministers of hospitality for funerals, those who represent us at food pantries and at Habitat for Humanity builds, to name a few. I wonder how the experience might change for us if Christ was the true impetus for our service. I wonder how the experience might change for those we serve?

Growing closer in our relationship with Jesus at every point in our lives brings a perspective that cannot be attained if we remain stagnant. This especially holds true in the area of stewardship of service. The creative energy of the Holy Spirit works through our ongoing longing to know more about Jesus and our faith. It helps us to remember that Jesus and others are always the reason for our service and that we are part of something larger than ourselves.

I am a lector at my parish. The question that I had to ask myself following this experience at the Easter Vigil was, “How am I continuing to build my relationship with Jesus so that I can proclaim the Word of God in a more inspirational way?” What would happen (if we are not doing this already) if our greeters, ushers, funeral dinner ladies, trustees, etc., took time to pray and be formed in our faith for the good of our ministries?

Would we experience more joy? Would people see it in us and be drawn closer to Jesus because of us?

For me, I decided to purchase and savor a new book by Jesuit Fr. James Martin titled “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.” Fr. Martin reflected on the life of Jesus as he tours the Holy Land. Actually, I can’t wait to sit on my patio and begin. (I’ve always wanted to go to the Holy Land.)

I would like to thank everyone for their service in Jesus’ name. I would especially like to thank the beautiful woman in the red blouse who served me Jesus at the Easter Vigil. Please know your joy was contagious!

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

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