Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(I Thessalonians 3:7-13; Matthew 24:42-51)
The Greek New Testament word diakonia means service. It has been translated into Latin as ministerium from which is derived the English word ministry. Of course, ministry is recognized as a form of service, but for a long time the Catholic Church considered it exclusively the service rendered by the ordained. Only recently, and still not completely, has the term been acknowledged as legitimate for the services lay people render in the Church.
Today’s gospel may be interpreted as supporting this point of view. Although the Greek does not use diakonia for the servant’s work, Jesus indicates that his disciples should await his return by caring for household needs. Since he is referring to the Church, he is saying that every member should contribute to her welfare.
All Catholics will not build up the Church in the same way. Many laypersons, doing their jobs efficiently, honestly, and benevolently, are reordering world affairs according to the norms of justice. This is not strictly secular work. Done with the right motivation, it fulfills in part the Church’s mission and has been termed the “ministry of the laity.” Others will expend their creative effort back in the parish teaching religion or working with the evangelization program. They perform a more recognized but not necessarily more important ministry.