Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Essential need for human communication

To communicate is essential to Christian ministry. If we look into the early Church as reflected
in the Acts of the Apostles we find that at that early stage everybody was a communicator of
her/his faith. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” it says in
Acts 8,4 referring to the persecution in Jerusalem (cf. also Acts 11,19-21!). Even when exiled,
persecuted and driven away they communicated and shared their faith and conviction to people
around them. In fact they saw it as a special calling and grace to become this way missionaries of
the early faith community. It was the Holy Spirit who guided and ‘inspired’ them beyond any
technical means. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip…” (8, 26); “Encouraged by the Holy
Spirit” the church grew in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (9, 31); “While they were worshipping the
Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul…” (13, 2) “Paul and
his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the
Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in the province of Asia…” (16, 6) This should not be
different in the communication of the Church today! Therefore a proper communication
education has to start on this personal and spiritual level. It has to start with the Holy Spirit!

Here we might also look in a special way into the ways and means of Jesus’ communication.
How did the master himself communicate? He is not the “perfect Communicator” because he was successful in the modern sense of the word. He did not convert the Pharisees and the scribes but he communicated the love and care of the Father and His Kingdom. He became the perfect
communicator because he lived and practiced the basics of any human and Christian
communication! He communicated in word and deed. The circumstances of his life, his birth in
the manger, his death on the cross are a communication of God’s love and his humility to become
one of us. It is “giving of self in love” which is at the essence of Jesus’ communication of any
Christian communication as one of the church documents described it (Communio et Progressio,
1971, no. 11).

Jesus’ healing and dealing with people reflects the basics of Christian communication. The
healing of the mother in Law of Peter (Mk 1, 31) is just one example: He goes to her, holds her
by the hand, and lifts her up i.e. heals her. These are the basics of any human and Christian
communication which have to be developed already from the early stages in the seminary as an
essential habit of a minister:

 Go to a person
 Place yourself into her/his situation (‘shoes’), and
 Lift her/him up, help and heal in the power of God/Christ.

If all our ministries and even our own lives and dealings with each other would be based on these
three steps our own communities and the world probably would be different!
This shows also that seminary education in communication is not first and foremost a technical
task but rather a concern for a deep spirituality and faith.

It might be good at this stage also to remind ourselves that there is a great difference between
training and formation which comes into play here. Training is concerned about skills whereas
formation leads to an inner disposition. What we need first and foremost is a proper formation
which is not only reflected in a curriculum but rather in the spiritual formation and the personal
relationship and experience of the Lord. It really means to put on the body and soul of Christ in
relating with others, in our own “giving of self in love” (C+P 11). It is not measured first and
foremost in the ‘Doing’ but rather in the ‘Being’. Communication education in the seminary must start on the level of formation and develop from there. Placed into an overview one might see the different levels and concerns in the following way:

· Education > Knowledge
· Training > Skills: ‘Doing’
· Formation > inner disposition: ‘Being’

Proper communication education starts on the level of formation which is not only taught in
words and prescriptions but on the level of deep spirituality and faith and example. This must also be considered as a special concern in Asia because our Asian cultures are based and have their essential identity from their spirituality.

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