I hope that most of us who are in pastoral ministry came to our place in life to care for Christ's people. But Benedict takes this care a step further. He speaks about caring for souls. He speaks of the Abbot being called to account for those monks who have entrusted their lives, and their souls to his care. I think the same is true for those called to pastoral ministry.
When you think about it, the idea of caring for souls is an awesome responsibility. How much of our time is taken up by administration. And yes, I know, administration is one of the gifts of the Spirit described by Paul. But how does it impact the care of the souls entrusted to our care? How does constant upkeep of a building help care for souls? How does being an expert at find raising care for souls?
Don't get me wrong. I do know those things have an impact on our congregations. Yet they are not the chief impact we should make. I have never forgotten the sermon a friend and mentor preached at my ordination. He described a brass plaque on the pulpit of his home church. On the plaque were the words of scripture, "Sir, we would see Jesus." 'Show them Jesus," my friend instructed me. "Show them Jesus."
In each encounter with our congregants we have the opportunity to show Jesus. We can do this by the things we do; things like the example of our lives; like our own devotion to prayer and scripture; things like the way we treat each person with whom we come in contact; things like the care we have for our own families.
We can of course block Jesus from our congregant's vision. We can do this by actions, such as pastoral abuse in any form or by teaching those for whom are supposed to care, how to hate their sisters and brothers who are in someway different from us. We can also block Jesus by our inaction. We can cut a few corners. We can try to cater to a popular view of scriptures instead of helping those we teach dive into their depths. We can block Jesus in so many ways that it is frightening to think about.
I suppose it is admonitions like this part of Benedict's Rule that have played a large part in my decision to follow his little rule for beginners. Benedict constantly reminds me of how to live like a Christian and, in this case, to care deeply for the souls of those people entrusted to my care.