Today, I continue my reflections upon Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. Find daily reflections on this teaching by a variety of Catholic authors and speakers at KellyWahlquist.com.
Day 5: “Pastoral Activity and Conversion” (Paragraphs 25-33)
Today’s section of EG is truly a set of marching orders for parishes and dioceses. If you have an sense that status quo could simply be good enough for your Church, look at the opening paragraph of this section (25) where Pope Francis teaches us:
I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough.
We might be tempted to read this section with an eye towards our own home parishes and dioceses and how they’d better be working to improve themselves. Pope Francis is definitely speaking in this section about a major emphasis on evangelization, on being “permanently in a state of mission”.
But finger-pointing at our pastors and bishops isn’t the solution here. Renewal in our Church happens when we concern ourselves first and foremost with renewal in ourselves, and then when we take the proactive steps we’re each called to as Christians and as members of the Body of Christ, his Church.
My first read through today’s paragraphs came with the eyes of a Catholic who works for her parish part time and is active in her diocese. I read it thinking, “We should do xyz program or try xyz idea…” Pope Francis teaches us today that the parish is at the heart of a Catholic’s life and is uniquely positioned to lead her parishioners into this permanent state of mission:
The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.
My next read through the paragraphs came simply with my “Lisa, a Catholic in the pews” eyes. That’s the Lisa who is tempted to take her parish’s lead and to simply sit back and wait for the mission to begin and to be announced in her bulletin. She might show up and participate, but she’s pretty busy, so she’ll perhaps just donate a bit to the cause and hope it goes well while she’s out doing her thing. That Lisa needs to read what Pope Francis says today and definitely take it to heart.
While in a sense today’s section of EG is addressed at parishes and bishops, it’s also a reminder to the faithful that the parish is US and that our bishop is one of US. When we are called to be “permanently in a state of mission” and in a “constant self-renewal born of fidelity to Jesus Christ”, this means seven days a week, not only Sunday morning when we’re at Mass.
Blessedly, today’s portion of EG leaves us with a papal pep talk that truly succeeds in firing me up:
Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.
Let’s each look for one simple way today to become more involved in the mission efforts of our parish or diocese. But let’s also pray about transforming our own lives into a permanent state of mission. We do not walk alone.
Jesus, help me today, under the leadership of my bishop and my pastor, to be bold and creative, to walk without inhibitions or fears in my work in the New Evangelization. I am your hands and feet to a world so greatly in need of your love. Use me today. I walk with you and my brothers and sisters in you. Amen
Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey