“We pray for the parish at this time of transition” has been a prayer of the faithful in the past few weeks – what does it mean?
A common response to any transition is, “When will it be over?” Often, fears take hold of us and lead us to want to hold tight to what we know and protest, “This is how we’re used to doing things.” “Life in the Parish is working well, so why change?” As I have moved from Parish to Parish and exercised different ministries within Church structures, I have experienced negative reactions to change and dare I say behaviour which has been very unchristian. Yet I have also come to experience transition as promising — as an opportunity, a creative endeavour, and a time of growth. As we begin changes to our Mass times, what are the opportunities for growth of our Community? How can these changes help us to nurture our communal bond – in other words, can we be the light on the hilltop that is referred to in the Gospel.
Following upon the teaching of the Beatitudes that we heard of last week, Jesus uses the now familiar metaphors of salt and light to describe the life of discipleship. We take salt and light for granted in our society, but these commodities were more precious in ancient cultures. Just as now, salt was used in Jesus’ time for flavouring, as a preservative, and as a healing agent. Similarly, the widespread use of electricity in the modern world makes us less aware of the value and importance of light in our lives.
Still, our familiarity with this passage from Matthew’s Gospel speaks well to the abiding power of the imagery that Jesus presented. Jesus’ call to be salt for the earth and light for the world powerfully states our mission as Church and as Christians. Our commitment to social justice flows from the exhortation that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console those who mourn, and so on, we show ourselves to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we do these things with the community of faith, the Church, we are indeed acting as “a city set on a mountain” that cannot be hidden!
Pope Francis has strongly outlined a new comprehensive vision for the future of the Catholic church, forcefully telling a gathering* of the Italian church community that our times require a deeply merciful Catholicism that is unafraid of change [*the Gathering is similar to what the Australian Bishops are proposing for 2020, which has been referred to in The Catholic Leader)]. Francis said Catholics must realise: “We are not living an era of change but a change of era.”
“Before the problems of the church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally,” the pontiff said at one point during his remarks.
“Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives — but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened,” said the pope. “It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus Christ.”
“The reform of the church then, does not end in the umpteenth plan to change structures,” he continued. “It means instead grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Spirit — so that all will be possible with genius and creativity.”
Let’s dream for a moment – close your eyes and image this happening with our Community here in Ipswich – we certainly would be a great ‘light’ – of activity, of friendship, of outreach, of compassion, of creativity – it is endless. Are you still dreaming or have you given up?
Fr Stephen ofm