Bringing change to someone’s approach to life from dysfunctional to functional is like heart surgery. First, it is like you crack open their chest with just enough anesthesia and then you can go deep without killing them. In plainer language you talk with someone about what they see for a need for change, ask questions that help them assess the costs and benefits of the status quo. From there, you help them see where their life has been and will be in the context of story.
I applied this recently in a capstone project for my Masters in Social Work. I had my semi-existing client, “Sofia” and in the paper used motivational interviewing to bring illumination and then narrative therapy (story based perspective) to see where she can overcome conflicts and make a happy ending. The illumination is a combination of my education and her own self-reflections.
Saint Peter was a wiser man than I and most people. But his role is not as a therapist and his audience is not a client but the Church which he is a part of and has personally been formed spiritually in. Also in his case he does not end with a story but begins with one we have heard referred to as The Greatest Story Ever Told. He has been schooled by the gospel.
1 Peter 5:1 Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2 to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3 Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. 5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Peter has come a long way about the hard truths of the cross of Christ. The same day he was appointed as the first pope he tried to “straighten” out Jesus about the need to go to the cross. But he speaks as someone that has come against the way of humility and now comes from experiencing it as a witness and as one who was persecuted. He is also speaking as an elder which in the Greek is Presbyteros and is really the word that comes over to English as priest.
Peter has a further connection to the mysteries of the Cross as a celebrant in the mass. Many Catholic theologians say that if Peter were to walk into a mass today he would not understand many of the things done now except for holding up the bread that has been consecrated: also known as the Blessed Sacrament.
In light of being a witness of the Cross and a celebrant of the mysteries Peter exhorts the servant attitude to start with all who are sacramental elders. That is, they would do their work “not for sordid gain”. In other words,”It’s not about you guys, remember that.” This humility would hopefully trickle down to the younger in a transmission of what I call needed with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition: Sacred Humility.
And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another,
And there is the first uncomfortable blow in this passage. To cover ones self in humility is to identify yourself with the sufferings of Christ and put other people’s needs above your own. If God is the potter and we are the clay, His calling is to be forged by one another in the context of intentional humility. Will people let you down? Maybe. But what does it benefit you to be on your guard around everyone? There is none. And to comes to cloth yourself in humility is not a matter of intellectual assent but a process over time out of relationship with Christ through the Church. Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior? Great! But by being humble you make the Cross a living truth and live it out.
Whew! Is that all? No. Peter is just warming up. If you can humble yourself in the community that you can see, you can transition to humbling yourself to God who you cannot see; but also His blessings.