Maintenance or Mission?
At the Masses last weekend I threw out a challenge. Given the dramatic fall in recent years in the number of people attending Mass regularly on Sundays, the smaller fall in the number of priests and the fact that we still have almost as many churches as when there five times as many people coming to Mass, as an Archdiocesan family we have two alternatives. We can reduce the number of Sunday Masses and close some more churches, or we can start attracting more people back to Church. But during the week I was reminded that Pope Francis has called us to a much more radical change.
In his letter, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote:
I dream of a “missionary option”, that is a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.
I take this to mean that we shouldn’t be worrying about how many people come to Mass, how many Masses we have, or even how many churches remain open. Instead we should be thinking about what we’re doing to spread the Good News of God’s love for the whole world, a love so great that he sent his Son to live among us, to suffer and die for us, and to rise to new life which he shares with us. We should be finding new ways to follow Jesus’ way of treating people, especially the poor and the vulnerable, so that we are building his Kingdom in our world.
On Tuesday evening we will be meeting at St Philomena’s to discuss what advice we should give to the Archbishop about the way forward. There will be the opportunity to say what we think about the challenges facing us and to suggest actions that will help us to be the Church that God has called us to be.
While we may be worried by recent trends, we do not forget that Jesus promised to be with us always and that we have received the Spirit of Truth, sent from the Father to enable us to live in love and to carry out the mission entrusted to us.