A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
Part 4: Go and Bear Fruit!
An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. (The Joy of the Gospel, 24)
I am as guilty as some other church leaders at sometimes overusing St. Teresa Calcutta’s famous line, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” Of course there is truth here: faithfulness to God’s will has to be the foundation of our life and work. We shouldn’t do things (especially contrary to God’s will) with the sole purpose of seeking “success” as we’d define it.
But this has to be balanced with what Pope Francis says above. Imagine if Mother Teresa had received a report from one of her homeless shelters run by five Missionary of Charity sisters, indicating that last year only 3 homeless people were served, there were no local volunteers signed up to help, and the community had only held one prayer service that 5 people showed up to. (And one of those had to be there for court ordered community service.) St. Teresa might have led with her famous quote above, but then I think this leader of a worldwide religious community might have asked some pointed questions about what the sisters had been doing all year long! The fact of the matter is, the Missionaries of Charity do bear fruit because they are faithful to God’s call: Many of the poorest of the poor are served and the hearts and minds of many volunteers are transformed all over the world.
Pope Francis couldn’t be clearer: a community called to share the good news (such as a parish) should be concerned about being fruitful. Are we a place where every person (from beginners to old timers) is challenged and equipped to take the next step in their walk of discipleship? Are people’s lives being changed by what happens at St. Raphael? Are we reaching people in our area who are far from Jesus and his Church? Are we serving the social mission of the Church as we should? Are we giving our young people the chance to become disciples in a way that will sustain them for the rest of their lives? Are we supporting one another as parishioners in a parish so large, so that no one feels isolated or anonymous? We should be concerned with moving from good to better in all these ways and more. This is the kind of fruit a parish is called to bear.
Stay tuned for more from Pope Francis in this series. He has great and challenging things to say about what healthy ministry looks like. That’s what we want more and more – to be a healthy, vibrant parish. Because healthy things grow… and bear fruit.
I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain… (John 15:16)
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J. Pastor