I think sometimes we take our parishes for granted. For many of us, it is the place where we gather once a week to hear God’s word, to be encouraged and challenged by the message of the homilist and to receive Jesus in Eucharist. Of course, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and feeds us on our journey. How lovely! How life-giving!
Yet, I don’t think we realize the power of the Body of Christ to transform our communities and our world. The gift of Eucharist is meant not only to nourish and strengthen individuals but to encourage and coax the community of believers to rise up and offer the hope and mercy of Jesus in our neighborhoods and world.
The past years have been difficult to say the least. We cannot seem to turn on the TV without our hearts breaking. Between the senseless shootings of our black brothers/sisters and our courageous police officers to the terrorist attacks and hateful rhetoric of the presidential campaign, it is difficult for my soul to bear it some days.
Have you ever imagined a world in more need of the Gospel and the corporal works of mercy?
I find myself watching old reruns, game shows and home and garden shows when I need to decompress. My husband teases me.
The truth is I do not believe that the media or the government will be the agent in the transformation of our communities or our country. It’s not that we shouldn’t be faithful citizens and prayerfully vote our conscience on important issues. It is the responsibility of every baptized person to be the voice of the Gospel on Election Day.
Yet, when I look to the past, most of the successful movements for change were grassroots. Consider the hospitality of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement during the Depression and the justice and peace of the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King. Our religious orders have been incredible models of challenging and transforming beginning with themselves and their communities. Francis and Clare of Assisi and Mother Teresa, taught us well.
Neighborhood parishes are situated perfectly to be the hope of the world. Grounded in our relationship with Jesus, we can become the instruments of what our world needs like hospitality, acceptance, peace and justice. We have the Gospel and the corporal works of mercy! We have each other!
Strengthening our parishes through good stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. First we have to gratefully understand and acknowledge the amazing gift that is the Body of Christ.
We need to look at each other each weakened through the eyes of Jesus and offer his hospitality. We need to care for and comfort each other. We need to pray and worship together “like we really mean it.”
When we hear the Spirit’s encouragement and we are invited to serve in different capacities at our parish, we need to say “yes” even though it might not always fit in comfortably to our routine or schedule. We need to contribute generously from our treasure to help support our parish’s good and holy work.
Building the kingdom in a troubled world can be a challenge. The transformation begins in our own hearts and with our relationship with Jesus. Attitudes of love and generosity should radiate in our homes and then in our parish. Oftentimes we think that our parish is “about me” and “my needs” and change becomes difficult. The Gospel says differently.
We are the Body of Christ in this moment. If there was ever a time when we are needed to be the shelter and hope for the world, it is today. Perhaps we can do a parish readiness study, make the necessary adjustments and then turn on the lights, open the doors and take Jesus to the streets.
Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.