What Qualifies a Minister

10 June 2009. Wednesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary
2 Cor 3, 4-11; Psalm 99; Matthew 5, 17-19

Let me give you the background of the first reading. The Corinthians charged Paul of arrogance and boasting because Paul does not have a letter of recommendation from Jesus whom he represents. His ministry as Paul reflected on his apostolate is to extend the ministry of Christ. Messengers or representatives usually carry such letters that proves his credentials, gifts, or the approval of authorities. The Corinthians valued these things.

So Paul said that He didn’t need a letter of recommendation. He said that no mere human qualifications can prepare someone for God’s mission. Whatever he has, whether skills or gifts, are not enough to equip him for God’s work. It is God who sent and chose him, and therefore made him worthy to accomplish God’s task. If there are people who can testify to his “qualifications” they are the Corinthians themselves whom he lived with and loved. And thus, their stories about him that proves of his authority to preach is not written on paper, but written in the hearts of the Corinthians.

In the first reading, Paul then tells us that the basis of confidence of a ministry does not reside on his “qualifications” but “in the Lord”. God is now making a new covenant and thus “fashioning” new ministers. If the old covenant was written in stone (as Moses and the tablets), the new covenant is now written in the hearts of people. If the old covenant measures and defines sin (Thou shalt not… ), the new covenant in the Spirit of God gives life.

In our lives, it is a matter of perspective. A person who focuses on the don’ts tend to be judgmental and legalistic. They tend to be rigid and Pharisaic. Their lives are governed by their numerous small laws, like the various interpretations of the law by the scribes. Like the Corinthians, they would look at resumes and written qualifications. Their conscience tend to be scrupulous because they are always afraid that they would be punished if they break any of these laws — despite many of them are absurd. They force people to respect them because of the authority or title they hold. But we all know that not all with a doctorate decree and the most impressive resume are good teachers or even pastors. Often, they are boring and bookish. Likewise, not all candidates for a government position can perform and serve well, despite their educational background and track record.

The best qualification of leadership is experienced by the community themselves. They have lived with the person and so they see their characters. Character is defined as who you are when no one is looking. The people can testify to the qualifications of the person intended to serve; they are the best witnesses of the person. The people who tends to be optimistic and positive are open to life and its challenges. They see some goodness in people, despite their being bad. It would be difficult to remove the sunshine in their faces. And therefore, if we would like to testify to Jesus, we have to spend time with Him so that we would know His Spirit apart from the others. This is the reason why contemplation as a form of prayer becomes important: we truly live with Jesus and thus would quite know His spirit. The analogy is simple: in our knowledge of a person, we would be able know that they like with or without their physical presence. No explanation asked: we just know! Basta! We don’t feel restricted as the first; we would even feel free because there is much, much more in the world that can be enjoyed and explored happily like free spirits! What is the basis? The law is written in your heart. You don’t need a list or pamphlet of rules about the do’s and don’ts, likes and dislikes of your significant other. It is written in your heart because you just know that a t-shirt in a boutique will be appreciated than the thousand other t-shirts on the racks.

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