Theological Reflection Of A Hospital Chaplain

Ministry TriangleMinistry of Iconic Incarnation
The ministry of iconic incarnation is based on the authentic and vulnerable presence of the chaplain to the pastoral care recipient. Just as Jesus is the ikon of God the Father (John 14:9, Col 1:15), who we see “through” to see God, likewise, the chaplain, who is “spiritually transparent,” can become an ikon of God (Gen. 1:27). This is at the core and base of my chaplain ministry, and I must be deeply in touch with who I am to be fully iconic. The process is best described by St. Paul who said, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image [ikon] with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV). To become iconic requires a maturing spiritual life centered on intimate prayer, and regular, deep confession of sin and pain to another human being (James 5:16).

Ministry of God’s Word
God has revealed His goodness and grace in nature, but ultimately and definitively in Jesus Christ. Yet, it is His written Word that can communicate very poignantly to our souls when we are in distress, revealing His grace, mercy, and compassionate understanding. The strategic use of the written Word of God for the purposes of encouragement, empathy, and empowerment is critical and fundamental to my ministry as a chaplain. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Heb. 4:12, NLT).

Ministry of Sacraments
The ministry of sacraments is not limited to the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, but includes any aesthetic means of God’s manifest presence. The seven sacraments of the Church are indeed the most powerful means for the pastoral care recipient to experience the goodness, grace, and healing of God, but I also understand that a sunset, scent, or any other tangible positive incident can be sacramental (a means of experiencing of God’s grace). Thus, discovering how a pastoral care recepient can be ministered to sacramentally is an imperative of the chaplain, irrespective of their faith tradition.

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The story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus captures the essence of this three-fold ministry:

“It was as He reclined at the table with them [Ministry of Iconic Incarnation] that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them [Ministry of the Sacraments]. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight. So they said to each other, ‘Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures [Ministry of God’s Word] to us?’” (Lk 24:30-32, HCSB).

(c) Paul Dordal, 2013

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