Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In my column last month, I shared with you our diocesan goals for the next five years. As I said then, these goals are rooted in our priority to call forth and form leaders who love Jesus and live his mission. To do that, our goal is to mobilize 25,000 missionary disciples and to form 30 seminarians by 2025. We believe that achieving these goals will help renew the Catholic Church in our diocese and will transform the communities in which we live.
Last month, I explained how we came up with these goals. In this column, I want to address why our church and our world are in desperate need of missionary disciples. I hope that in doing so, I can inspire many of you to join us in our efforts.
We are in a massive era of change, but not just an era of change; as Pope Francis has said, we are in the change of an era. This makes for great uneasiness as the traditional resources of stability seem to be crumbling, like intact families, the understanding of the human person and personal relationships.
As people have struggled for a sense of meaning, sometimes God is denied or ignored and people’s experience of God is somehow overlooked or believed to be a fantasy. Some have come to see God as “fake news” and if this is the case, Christianity is seen as nothing more than a set of rules and guidelines, and a difficult one at that.
But God is not fake news. The good news is so much better than this. It’s true, a life without God is incoherent because it is very difficult to come to meaning without making space for God. We have been made in the image and likeness of God, and God created us for himself. So it’s only in understanding ourselves in relationship to God that we can find the meaning, purpose and stability we seek so desperately.
When we come to see our very identity in relationship to God, Christianity takes on a whole new meaning. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
This is where discipleship and missionary discipleship come into play. Discipleship is a personal relationship with the Son of God, Jesus. He is the living embodiment of the loving God who became one of us in everything but sin. Through the resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit, each one of us is able to have a deep and abiding relationship today with Jesus our Savior. As St. Mother Teresa wrote, “The personal love Christ has for you is infinite. … You are precious to him, turn to Jesus with great trust and allow yourself to be loved by him.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity as he looked at the crowds, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. Our world today is suffering in a similar way. In that same passage, Jesus says to the disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
This is why we need disciples and missionary disciples, and this is why we have developed the goals that we have. Those of us who have felt the transformative power of Christ’s love have an obligation to share that love with others, and our world desperately needs that love. As Christians, we are called to respond to that need.
So who’s with me?
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.