By Jaiver Soegaard
The life and reality of ministry, however, must progress beyond a simple “praying with.” I recall fondly a meeting with a couple during my first weeks at the parish. At the beginning of the meeting we began in prayer: In a very simple way I asked God to bless the couple as they prepared to enter into married life together. As we finished the prayer, the bride-to-be looked at me, both overjoyed and puzzled, and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a prayer especially dedicated to me. That was awesome.” It startled me. It gave me a real sense of what God was really calling me to do.
Even though all we get to say in Eucharistic Ministry is: “Body of Christ” or “Blood of Christ,” in our hearts we have the opportunity to say much more: we get the chance to truly pray for others.
Listen to what the Jewish elders say to the Lord in our passage, “He [the Centurion] deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” Remember that it is not the Centurion that is ill, but his slave. If we put ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish elders we realize that the slave of a centurion should be the last people we care about. The Romans are the militant occupants of Jewish land; their slaves are symbols of what the Jews really are. These slaves are reminders of Roman oppression: the fact that the Jews do not hold their land as they ought, that their relationship with the Lord is unfulfilled and incomplete.
The fact that the elders wish this slave to be healed indicates a transcendence of social and religious boundaries. These elders have begun to be touched by the Spirit of Jesus who reminds us that we are all of us the recipients of God’s grace and mercy, all of us worthy to be healed, no matter our social status or ethnicity.
I think we’ve all faced a point in our Eucharistic ministry when we’ve known too much about someone’s life, or had horrible memories of something a person did to us in the past. These are the kinds of situations where perhaps “Amen” does not suffice as a prayer, because we say it begrudgingly. But if our prayer becomes an echo of the Jewish elders: Lord, she deserves this; Lord, he deserves this, we begin to transcend ourselves. Calling out to the Lord on behalf of another (love them or hate them), we make it clear that we do not simply trust God to answer those prayers we make for ourselves. Rather, we trust God to use us as intermediaries, to be people increasingly committed to helping others encounter the living God.
Friends, this desire to intercede—to plead for another before the Almighty, to see past their flaws and see their need for God’s life—this is the next step in developing a ministerial spirituality. Moreover, as we cultivate this disposition we discover a very practical outcome—we begin to care more and more about the places in our community that require the Lord’s presence, the places where healing and mercy and salvation need to arrive—the places where we can be agents of that very grace.
As we may have experienced, this can certainly lead us into the temptation of nosiness, of finding out other people’s problems for the sake of knowing their faults and shortcomings. But in it its holiest and most selfless form, this attitude we call ministerial, this spirituality we call a ministerial, demands that we not only pray with but pray on behalf.
So, friends, fellow Ministers of Holy Communion, when we are blessed enough to bring the Lord to others, whether at Mass or in a nursing home or to someone’s very home, let us never stop our prayer at “Body of Christ” or “Blood of Christ.” When our brothers and sisters meet the Lord, let us cry out in our hearts on their behalf, and let us do so with all the joy of witnessing another person come heart-to-heart with Jesus the Christ.