Praying to receive the Spirit
Three years ago this weekend, as we were beginning the process of reflection that has become Synod 2020, I wrote this in the newsletter at St Teresa’s:
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 were 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.
Today we have no-one attending Sunday Mass and all our churches are temporarily closed as the pandemic has forced us into what Cardinal Vincent describes as a great fasting from the sacraments, but many are using technology to stay in touch with their communities. There are some hopeful signs that in this crisis some people are turning back to faith in God. The need for us to find new ways to follow in the footsteps of Jesus has never been more urgent.
Whether the doors of our churches can be opened in time for Pentecost seems doubtful, but each of us can open the doors of our heart to welcome the Spirit Jesus promises to send, whose gentle power and missionary impulse we need now more than ever.