A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
“Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures……If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’”. (Mk 6:37). (paragraph 49)
Who is starving at the door of St. Raphael? Pope Francis powerfully calls us to ask this in these last words of the first chapter of The Joy of the Gospel. He’s talking about people who are hungry spiritually as well as physically. Remember the title of the chapter is “The Church’s Missionary Transformation.” The pope has been calling us to consider transforming, changing things in our parish with this goal: to help us better reach people around us who are not yet being reached. That means many of our neighbors, our coworkers, perhaps even our family members. It also means those of us who are part of St. Raphael already: In what ways to we need to have Jesus reach our hearts and lives even more?
The pope minces no words about the challenge of transformation. Change is hard. It can make us inconvenienced, uncomfortable. It means not always doing things “the way we’ve always done it.” Change can also make us fearful because trying new things means taking risks. It means being willing to try something that might fail! The pope urges us not to give in to the immobilizing fear of failure. He’d rather us get dirty and make some mistakes as we try better ways to reach more people in spiritual and physical need than to “stay safe” by not trying anything new at all. Why the risk? Because seeking Jesus’ will and taking risks to try to reach people better with his Good News can bear great fruit! Remember what Pope Francis said previously in the The Joy of the Gospel:
“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…I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear” (33).
Let us continue to pray: Jesus, you yourself call and command us as your disciples to feed our brothers and sisters at our door who are starving spiritually and physically. Please show us your will for how our parish can do this better, and give us the love and the courage to follow you…
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.