A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
Part 6: Conversion from the Inside Out
Last week we looked at Pope Francis’ call to be open to change the way we do things in the Church. In paragraph 26 he begins to talk about what must be behind our changing, our conversion:
The Second Vatican Council presented……..
ecclesial conversion as openness to a constant self-renewal born of fidelity to Jesus Christ: “Every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling… Christ summons the Church as she goes her pilgrim way... to that continual reformation of which she always has need, in so far as she is a human institution here on earth” [Decree on Ecumenism, 6].
There are ecclesial structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s “fidelity to her own calling”, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.
What’s our basis for changing things in the Church? To be more faithful to Jesus, and to be more faithful to what he calls us to. We need to keep reevaluating how well we are staying close to him and hearing what he’s asking of us, as we continue on the journey.
Pope Francis is very clear: we can set up “ecclesial structures” – programs, projects, ways of doing things in our churches – that can actually get in the way of the proclamation of the good news we’re called to do. But even good structures aren’t enough in themselves. As one of our witness speakers at Masses last weekend reminded us: underpinning any programs or strategies a church might try, there has to be faith and hope, and as the pope says, “new life and an authentic evangelical spirit.” That is, we need to always allow Jesus to breathe his Spirit anew into us, to give us the life and power we just don’t have on our own. And the Spirit produces in us an authentic “burn in our belly,” a deep desire to share the good news of Jesus and his Church with others. In other words, the renewal of our parish that Pope Francis is challenging us to has to come from the inside out.
Lord Jesus, please fill us anew with your Holy Spirit. We want to know you more, and to become more who you call us to be as missionary disciples and as a parish. We can’t do this without your help. Please open the doors you want us to walk through at St. Raphael in our next steps along the journey, and give us the courage to cross each threshold with you.
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.