This weekend, take a look around to see the people who are attending Mass with you. According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, less than 20 percent of the people registered in your parish will go to Mass this weekend. That makes those of us gathered part of a remnant, such as Zechariah the prophet speaks of in the first reading for this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
At first thought, being a remnant may not sound appealing. After all, a remnant is usually thought of as the left over piece that has no use. However, I think back on all the uses my mother had for remnants; making them into potholders, quilt pieces, aprons and most importantly, using them for patches to repair and hold together a piece of clothing that would have become unwearable.
At a time when our world, and even our church, seems to be at odds from within, we “remnant patches” have important work to do. Now is the time to bind up, to heal and to make new again.
This Sunday’s Gospel is on the Beatitudes. As you listen, think about what kind of remnant patch God is calling you to be; should you bind together the poor or be one who brings peace? Perhaps you are able to mourn with others and bring them comfort. Maybe God is sending you out to bring a patch of mercy to someone you have issues with or to work for righteousness and every manner of good things.
The place most in need of your remnant patch may be your very own parish. Of the people who do attend Mass on Sunday, an even smaller portion of them are actively engaged in the work of the parish. Prayerfully and honestly, discern your talents. Might your work be to volunteer as a lector, a greeter or one of the other liturgical ministries? If you prefer working behind the scenes, might be able to help with church laundry, stuffing bulletins, caring for plants or changing votive candles. And don’t forget, one of the most important jobs you can do is to pray for your pastor, parish staff and the people of your parish each day.
Most parishes have some point in the year when they recruit volunteers, but you do not have to wait. If you go up to your parish priest or a member of your parish staff and say “How can I help in the parish?” I can guarantee they will find a place for you. Consider also that parish committees are usually in need of additional people. Ask various chairpersons if you could observe a meeting. Perhaps in doing so, you will find a new area of work in your parish that will engage and excite you.
As you look around your church this weekend, do not be dismayed by the empty spaces. Rather, rejoice in being part of a remnant, empowered by Jesus in his word and sacrament, to be the patch that in goodness and faith binds together our bruised and broken world.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.