BY: ED GIGANTI
The spiritual writer Henri J.M. Nouwen reminded us that
four times in the Gospel, Jesus took bread, broke it, blessed
it, and gave it to his disciples. In celebration of the 275-year
history of the church's health and social service ministries
in the United States, this prayer service, based on Nouwen's
reflection, reminds us of our call to ministry to continue Jesus'
mission in our world.
CALL TO PRAYER
Gracious God, provider of all our needs, you have called us into your ministry.
Help us to follow the example of your Son, Jesus, who, in the breaking of the
bread, restores us for work we carry on his name.
When he disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with pity,
and he cured their sick. As evening drew on, his disciples came to him with
the suggestion: "This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the
crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves."
Jesus said to them: "There is no need for them to disperse. Give them something
to eat yourselves." "We have nothing here," they replied, "but five loaves and
a couple of fish." "Bring them here," he said. Then he ordered the crowds to
sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven,
blessed and broke them and gave the loaves to the disciples, who in turn gave
them to the people."
Like the bread taken by Jesus, we are chosen by God, selected for a unique
role to play in God's story. And as we recognize that we have been chosen, so
also we recognize the chosen-ness of all people.
Like the bread blessed by Jesus, we, too, are blessed by God. We are called
to claim our blessing and to bless others as we live each day.
Like the bread broken by Jesus, we also are broken in so many ways...in our
bodies and in our hearts, in our homes and in our world. Jesus asks us to take
up our cross, to claim our unique brokenness, and to join it with our blessing
as we move into service to others who hurt.
Like the bread given by Jesus, we also are given. Each of our lives is a gift
to those close to us: family, friends, those we serve, as well as to people
we will never know. God has given useach one of usas a sacred gift to the
In silent reflection, consider how you have been taken, blessed, broken, and
given in and through your life in ministry. When has this been most evident?
How have you been changed by your work in service to others? How have you come
to know Jesus through your service?
When he had seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the
blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that
their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
God who calls us, blesses us, and sends us into the world as gifts, we thank
you. Help us always to remember the teaching of your son, Jesus, who is our
example for ministry. Help us to see you each day in the faces of our sisters
and brothers. Help us, too, to embrace our own brokenness, to be, in the words
of your son, Henri Nouwen, "wounded healers" whom you give to a broken world.
"Pan de Vida (Bread of Life)," OCP Publications, 1988.
Ministry Leadership Development
Catholic Health Association
Copyright © 2002 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.