Your MISSION….. Go!March 18th, 2013
For Lent this year our pastoral region created a new form of parish mission. It was in large part the result (or the fault, depending on your viewpoint!) of the diocesan Christ at the Center conference held early last October. Rather than a traditional preaching mission, we presented a participatory, organic, intergenerational and regional event spread across four Sunday evenings, focusing on the Stations of the Cross, and utilizing the talents of our parishes. Each evening involved prayer, music, scripture, dramatization, presentations, reflection and small group sharing – as well as supper. Those planning recognized that the time for passive reception of the Good News is past. A mission, we determined, should not be simply entertaining or thought-provoking. It is, like the Eucharist itself, meant to inspire, to transform, to evangelize and to be a catalyst for the evangelization of others who did not attend.
Although the overwhelming later consensus was that the evening was successful, there were a few sticky moments. Yep, it was discouraging to hear the comments, when reflection booklets and pens were placed in the hands of attendees, of What?! We have to write?” “Is this school?” And when the prayer leader urged attendees to share some of their reflections with those sitting around them, and the response was …. dead silence…. I know I wasn’t the only one concerned!
Later we heard from a few attendees the oft repeated argument that their faith is “private,” and that they aren’t comfortable sharing. Well…I get this. At some level your faith IS private, as are all relationships. As Catholics we SHOULD have a personal relationship with God. However, Catholicism is not at its heart a private faith. After Jesus’ death the disciples didn’t go off on their own with their private recollections. Instead, they gathered together, told stories, and communally lived the life he taught them to live.
Yes, many over the age of forty grew up only with that “private faith.” We didn’t talk about our Catholicism – we just lived it! Numerous historical and political reasons exist for this. But as our Popes and bishops have repeatedly stated in documents like The New Evangelization, if we do not share our faith, if we do not speak of it, in fifty years or less we won’t have a Catholic Church. The task of sharing does not lie just with our few remaining priests, or even with lay leaders. Is there not an irony in that so many “good Catholics” who attend Mass faithfully are also terrified to use the word “God” in a sentence of their own creation?
Sure, we all prefer to remain in our comfort zone. But comfort without growth is death, and our God is the God of life. Jesus came to push us toward growth, to shake us up, to move us on out, to send us to the rest of the world – not just to sit on our rear ends.
Remember, the root word for both “mission” and “Mass” means “sent.” Get moving! Go!