Sunday, 18 September 2016
Changing Everything & the New Evangelisation, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, West Moors
Today I want to start talking to you about my vision for the parish, and, in particular, to talk to you about the changes I will be introducing. A number of people asked me, my very first Sunday, what I would be changing. There is a simple answer to this. What will I be changing? Everything, absolutely everything. If, five years from now, there is some aspect of parish life I have not changed then I will have failed.
Now, having made such a sweeping declaration I need to clarify it by indicating what I mean.
I am taking as my starting point the statement by Pope Francis that the demands of the New Evangelisation have to “transform everything”(EG 27) in parish life.
How do we greet people at the door?
What does the entrance feel like?
How complicated is the missal book? etc.
Everything needs to be evaluated in the light of the OUTSIDER.
If the New Evangelisation is to be a reality then it's not just about explicit moments when we talk to unbelievers about Christ (though we do need to enable those), it's also about all the little details too.
AND, of course, the outsider includes YOU too: if we make the outsider welcome in a way that makes the insider unwelcome then we've somehow contradicted ourselves.
Let me add, however, that this is not just about welcome.
It's also about what we COMMUNICATE to the outsider, including how we communicate by our BEHAVIOUR, including our behaviour in church at Mass.
We just heard the Lord say in the Gospel that you cannot serve both God and money (Lk 16:13).
But does our behaviour at Holy Mass,
does our very building,
does it communicate the sense that we rank God above the material things of this world?
Is there a sense of awe and wonder in our liturgy?
Does our liturgy and building convey that there is a Lord and Creator of all things, a transcendent all-powerful God, who dwells in this place and who we approach with humility, with awe, with love?
Does the way we handle the sacred vessels, and administer Holy Communion speak of the presence of God?
What about the position and reverence given to the tabernacle?
And, what about the love and joy that are visible, or not, in us in the way we approach the Lord?
All of these, and more, are also crucial issues for the New Evangelisation.
And, they are also issues that help or hinder that Gospel being imbedded in our own hearts and lives.
Why does this matter? Why should we care about the outsider? Why can't we just respect the unbeliever’s unbelief and leave him where he is?
Well, first, it matters to God. He is ‘Lord’ and ‘Creator’ of all people already. But He is only Father to those who are adopted in His Son Jesus Christ. And, as we heard in our second reading, “He wants EVERYONE to be saved and reach knowledge of the truth. For there is only ONE God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, Himself a man, Christ Jesus”(1 Tim 2:4-5).
The Gospel isn't just for those born Catholic, or who have already stumbled their way in: it's the truth, the relationship with our loving Father that He wishes for each and every member of the human race.
Second, it should matter to us. If we value what we have, we should want to share it. And the Faith is one of those gifts that grows by being given away.
I'm going to have to stop now. I'll be outlining a lot of what this looks like in the talk series starting Thursday nights and in the book reading book that will follow on after that. Please come. Please get involved. And please be ready to allow the priorities of the New Evangelisation to transform our parish.