Between the needed and the possible

    March 26, 2024

    Ministry can be exhausting. Working in direct service, there is always another client in need. In advocacy spaces, there is an impossible balance to be maintained between the needed and the possible. Maybe this week we’re coloring eggs or buying new dresses in preparation for Easter. Maybe we’re getting another phone call from somebody who wasn’t paid fairly for their work, or from a family who can’t find the money for rent as the end of the month looms, or from an advocate asking to sign another letter to a senator about why the national budget shouldn’t disregard asylum seekers. It is a gift to share the abundance of our Lord, and to respond to the needs of our communities, and yet there is always so much need. We may think we can do everything, and overcommit ourselves to too many good causes, only to find out that our bandwidth doesn’t match our ambitions.

    This is especially true for Holy Week. Jesus is about to literally save the world. And yes, we are called to be present to those suffering today, and to recognize Jesus in those in need, but we are also called to listen to our savior. When we find ourselves trying to overload our plate, it can be helpful to remember that the world is not on our shoulders. In fact, in today’s Gospel, Peter offers to follow Jesus even to death, and Jesus, knowing Peter’s capacity, tells him “where I am going, you cannot follow me now.” It is not Peter’s role to die on the cross for human salvation. We, like Peter, can let God be God, while we try to follow the Almighty’s lead and find our own role.

    Holy Week is a liminal space. We have already heard the Passion story on Palm Sunday, and we await the fullness of the Triduum. In the midst of it, we hear today’s readings. Isaiah speaks of sometimes feeling that he has “toiled in vain,” despite his grand mission. It reminds me of a prayer, perhaps apocryphal, that’s attributed to St. John XXIII. Every night he is said to have prayed, “Lord, I’ve done the best I can with your church today. But it’s YOUR church, and I’M going to bed.” May we all find that confidence in the midst of ministry. The confidence that God is doing great work in and through us, but we are not responsible for doing the whole of it. We know that God is the one who will ultimately take care of all people and we get to collaborate in that work.

    Sheila Herlihy Hennessee, OFS, is Faith Organizer for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

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