Power in Weakness: Towards a Cruciform Pastoral Ministry

How are we to understand what St. Paul says ‘ mind set of the flesh ( Rom.8: 5) ? It is easy to think of it as inordinate sexual desires. But is there any other way of thinking ‘ mind set on the flesh’? May be there is. But it may be not comfortable to consider. Yet to come to this new insight we have to view Pauls remarks that the flesh is hostile to God and does not submit God’s law. This consideration might open us to understand our fleshly desires as —a quest for control, to have a final say on several things. Therefore, we may ask does my relationship to my Christian community make me a person who is hostile to God not submitting to the God’s law? Perhaps, St. Paul actually addressed communities struggling practically embody faithfulness to God revealed in Jesus in all his letters. Pastoral ministry today also is undergoing similar struggles to embody our faithfulness to God who is acting in Jesus and his Spirit in the Church. How are we to become the community of resurrection is a huge challenge to us today in India. We have to shift away from a complex of being persecuted. Maybe at this point we are feeling weak. Here too St. Paul becomes a great inspiration to find the strength of God in our weakness.

Perhaps, our strength is derived on the market principle that sets up image as everything. Church in India has worked faithfully for a long time to good of our people. Unfortunately it is imaged negatively today by a political discourse. St. Paul does refer to falling prey to image in Galations ( Gal2: 1-10). To him none of the way people measure each other matters to God. This is why we have to come to terms with the cruciform side of our ministry. Humiliation has a way of leading to exaltation. We carry the marks of Jesus in our body ( Gal6: 17). As faithful servants of Christ, we closely resemble the crucified Lord ( 2: Cor11:23-29). Looking at St. Paul’s experience, we may be enabled to make sense of our experience of our weakness in our present times. Paul tells us that God’s power is unleashed in weakness and not through human power. St. Paul even tells us about a ‘ thorn’ being given to him so that he may not be boastful. It is because of cruciformity, our weakness throws open the power of God. It is the cross that makes the powerless Jesus, the most powerful one. It is in our weakness that the power of Christ dwells and shines. This is why when we are weak, we are strong. This time of weakness, therefore, it a time of our strength. Hence, we have to give up all hope to be seen in high esteem by others. Our only concern has to be about being seen by God.

We have to reflect the dynamics of cruciformity to reveal God’s power in weakness. The cross is a site of the power of resurrection. It is because of the cross that the Church and our ministry become life-giving. This is why we have to embrace cruciform ministry. Cruciform ministry calls us to be servants of God and his people. We are challenged to be servant leaders who walk with God’s people. The entire pastoral ministry has to embody synodality and has to leave aside seeking comfort in legalism and clericalism. We have to be cruciform pastors. We have to lead the Church to embody the cross. Our present condition in India, is a moment of grace wherein we are challenged to embody the cross. Cruciform ministry allows us to remain passive and active, passive to let God act and active to collaborate with God. Only by walking the way of the cross, we are enabled to see the power of resurrection acting in and through our ministry.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao