Commentary on the Public Ministry of Jesus

After thirty years in a relatively hidden and simple life, Jesus emerges into his public life and ministry for what turns out to be only three short years. One cannot help but be struck by all that He accomplished in that limited time! Where did Jesus get all his energy, stamina and perseverance? The "soul" of Jesus' ministry came from his intimate communing with His Father. It was such a lasting and fruitful ministry because he took time to "often go apart to some solitary place to pray to His Father." (Mark 6:45-46) It was an "ardent zeal" in his active ministry because it was overflowing from an ardent love for His Father and His plan for his life.

Father Médaille teaches us here in this contemplation of the mystery of Jesus' public life, the integration and inseparability of love and zeal. In one of his Maxims of Love he writes:

Your zeal will always be in proportion to the love of God
you have in your heart.
If it springs from a great love, then it will be great."

(Maxim of Love 11:1)

Jesus is "the true model of ardent zeal" and "the true model of all virtues" for us to imitate and "form ourselves on your pattern." The example of Jesus' life and the "doctrine gave such perfect lessons" that our exposure to the Gospel texts will teach us all we need to know about the highest perfection - Love. However, Father Médaille introduces a word of caution and clarification. This "tireless zeal" must be harmonized with the virtue of "moderation", a word which Father Médaille uses twice in this reflection. I sense that this is quite purposeful. For there will always be the tension between keeping one's ministry limited and balanced with the whole of one's lifestyle. In responding to the needs of others, Jesus said, "The poor you will have with you always." How true it is in all ages and time. There are so many pressing needs and so many genuine concerns that cry out before us with urgency and insistence. It is precisely here that Father Médaille would call us to discernment to see if this particular service is being asked of me by God, for His glory and/or the salvation of another soul, or is it coming from my work compulsion, or my need-to-be-needed compulsion. The virtue of zeal is certainly not "busyness" and needs to be accompanied by moderation and balance.

Ministry is really a matter of the heart. Zeal will flow from the greatness of love in one's heart. Greatness of love in the heart will spontaneously overflow into zealous service to others. So Jesus would counsel, and also Médaille: Be about LOVE more careful than everything else. "If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy... faith to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all I possess... even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever..." (1Corinthians 13: 1-13)

From this contemplation of moving through Jesus' public life and ministry I can intuit a strong affective temperament in our Père Médaille. He speaks three times of the "graciousness" of Jesus in his relationships with persons of all classes of society. He describes this quality as a "compelling graciousness", "a gentle graciousness". This lovely, human warmth of presence and capacity to welcome the other into oneself was certainly instrumental in attracting persons to come close to Him and to hear and receive his message. He embodies the hospitality of God! Father Médaille would invite all of us to emulate the same rich, warm humanness in our relationships with those we minister with and to.

Father Médaille urged us to have a genuine love, warmth, sensitivity and graciousness flow through our humanity into the humanity of the other person we were with. We are to trust our own humanity as Jesus did. His "charisma" was the divine Love emanating through him that so attracted others to draw close... and listen... and be healed by Him. And Father Médaille knew that the only way we could go and do likewise was if the "good Jesus, would impress them (all the virtues) on my soul by abiding eternally in me."

The quality and manner of serving others was of great importance to Jean-Pierre... even more important than the act being done. If the action/service was not coming from pure love, from the interior source of divine love burning in one's heart, the action/service was limited in its effectiveness to help the other person. The "sounding brass" and "clanging cymbal" of so much of active service is quite often just our need to be busy, to be needed, to be co-dependent, to be thought important or helpful. Wherever there is too much of "self", God's love cannot pass through. Let us pray to keep our bodies, our vessels of the Spirit, as pure as possible.

The diversity and comfortability of Jesus' personality is reflected in the Gospel stories that show him teaching, healing, fishing, praying, partying and weeping. He was a man of his times, a man at-home in his humanity, a man at ease with others. "At one time we saw you in perfect humility of heart and at another, kind and gentle graciousness; at one time, the simplicity of the dove and at another the prudence of the serpent..." Father Médaille pondered just how important this flexibility and sociability were in Jesus' life and in ours. He wrote in one of his Maxims of Love:

"Always be reserved in your conversations,

but let this be a cheerful and
gracious reserve in which there is neither too little nor too much restraint.
Enjoy reasonable relaxation, at the proper time and with the right persons.
The bow that is always taut

will not be able to stand the strain without breaking."
(M.P. 13-8)

Is there enough relaxation, diversity and leisure in your lifestyle to balance the daily stresses?

I believe that Father Médaille's own success in ministry and in communicating his vision was largely the effectiveness with which he allowed his natural quiet charm and warmth of personality to overflow into all that he did and said and was. Real love is always communicated in the personal, concrete and with a human touch. "The cup of cold water given, the coat shared, the prisoner or patient visited... is done to Me." Oh, would that our humanity might be one with the humanity of Jesus, the Christ. What Love would fill the whole cosmos!

"May I truly reflect your moderation, gentleness, humility, patience, graciousness, tireless zeal - in a word, all your virtues."

As we pray through this contemplation with Father Médaille, we are struck by the tremendous simplicity and single-heartedness of Jesus' entire public life. It was animated and motivated by one solitary desire: the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls. His varied apostolate - healing, preaching, teaching - in varied locales is all centered on the vivid awareness of his being sent by the Father on this one mission. And as He went about "doing good", Jesus models for us all the virtues... all the energy of God's life flows through him and stirs forth new life and new challenges in his listeners. The "energy" is communicated and touches the "energy" within the individual or crowd. How am I responding to that same "energy" when I enter into the Gospel scenes?

Father Médaille concludes our prayer on this mystery of Jesus' public life by asking Jesus to "Impress these virtues on my soul by abiding eternally in me." This language of "impress", "engrave", "imprint" are common throughout these contemplations. They reflect Jean-Pierre's deep desire that these become indelible characteristics, virtues that we are "branded" with interiorly by the burning heat of God's all-consuming fire of Love. Truly, may we be reflections of Christ. "May I be another humanity of Christ." (Elizabeth of the Trinity)

"Let them look up and see
no longer me, but only Jesus."
(Prayer of Cardinal Newman)