Well, Christmas has passed, and we now look forward to getting through winter and on to spring and Easter. As I reflect back on it, Christmas was a special time, made more poignant with little Natalie, my granddaughter, being in the hospital for a couple of weeks. When life is threatened, we come to treasure it more. On the other hand, when we have an abundance of something, we also can take it for granted. However, it is hard to take this little life for granted! It is like the priest shortage that affects the Church all over the US. We took for granted that there would be enough priests to support our parishes and be there for Mass and Baptisms, etc. It hasn't become a crisis, but it is a problem. In Indiana, there was a reorganization movement to streamline parishes and make alignments to more efficiently use the priestly resources that are available. The shortage is due to the general aging and retirement of those priests who are now active in ministry. This is also happening here. I think that what this means to all in the pews is that we all have to step up, become more active in our parish, and not take the Church for granted. Fr. Carl and the staff have an essential and important role to play in our parish. But so do we all. We have to abandon the mindset that it is up to the priest to carry the life of the church. I am sure that you have heard of the New Evangelization. It has been around since Vatican II and was advocated for by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict. It is a scary word that strikes fear in people’s hearts, well maybe that is an exaggeration! But it is misunderstood. What it means to me is that by virtue of our baptism, we are all children of God asked to be disciples. Perhaps it would be good to say to yourself several times, “I am a disciple of Christ. I am a disciple of Christ.” Let that gently sit with you. The bottom line is that we are all missionaries by being Catholic Christians. This means that our lives are to be used to spread the Good News that Christ’s resurrection saved our lives. Our Christianity is not to be taken for granted but to be actively nurtured. Now, I realize that we do not all make good salesmen and saleswomen. Most of us are uncomfortable standing on a street corner quoting scripture! But if we live out our Catholic values at home, at work, and in the community so that others may see our faith in action, then we are carrying out the New Evangelization!
Simply, our Catholic vocation is to love others. This means that we respect life from womb to tomb. We are life giving and life respecting people, because we ourselves have been given life by Christ. Where there is pain and injustice, we are called to love, to be a soothing balm healing the hurts. If we love, then we are that balm. Where life is diminished, where any person is shown less than respect, where the aged, the unborn, the young, the disabled, the poor are treated as invisible and expendable, we have to speak. Our guiding principle is that we are called to love. Christ showed his divine love by asking for God to forgive his tormentors on the cross. We must live our lives guided by our Christian values. In looking to scripture for guidance, in seeing the Eucharist as God’s presence in our lives, in daily prayer, in respecting marriage, the poor, the imprisoned, the stranger, we are called to a different set of values. We are the Catholic community of St. Jane Frances, set apart by our faith and our church, planted in this part of Maryland to share God’s presence. This is the mission of all of us! If we live this out so that other people, “know we are Christians by our love,” our priest shortage will be short-lived, and our parish will become an even stronger sign to all!
“If you really love God, you will not be content with
avoiding big sins. You will regard as hateful anything
which could be even a little displeasing to him.”
~ Thoughts of the Cure D’Ars