By: Fr. John Jasica
CHRISTMAS BRINGS US HOPE
As we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas this weekend—I want to wish everyone a joyful and peaceful Christmas, filled with the light, joy and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. In a gentle and subtle way, Christ enters in the stillness of the night to be the radiant true light that changes everything for us!!
May this Christmas season truly bring us strength and courage to be the presence of Christ in our families, workplaces, faith community and the world.
A TIME OF REFLECTION & ACTION
This is the third instalment of my reflections for our family of parishes in light of our Pastoral Plan, Ignite the Mission discernment journey, parishioner feedback and Bishop Fabbro’s most recent letter to all of us on December 3, 2023. You can find all the articles and information at our family of parishes website (www.chathamcatholic.ca).
I truly hope everyone takes the time to read, re-read and reflect on our journey thus far and through prayer, come to realize that the shift from maintenance to mission, looking to be an influence in our society today, requires major shifts and a sacrifice by all of us. Together, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can be faithful disciples who help change the world. This is the path the Lord is calling us to take so that His Good News may continue to shine!
CHANGE OFFERS NEW OPPORTUNITIES
I know that change is very difficult but it is a constant in our lives. Over the last two and a half years we have embarked on a new path as a family of parishes not just to do something different, but making the necessary transitions so that we can most effectively share the Gospel with the world—especially for those who are in need, forgotten or alone.
Forming disciples who profess and witness the Gospel is the primary purpose of our parishes. At times this has been forgotten or faded into the background. The Church adjusts how it shares the Gospel for each generation, seeking to be a rock, anchor and guide for society. The world today is very different than 25 years ago, and so a new and more relevant response is required.
POPE FRANCIS & HIS DREAM
This shift to a missionary focus is a challenge and opportunity for everyone. There are two powerful quotes from Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation called JOY OF THE GOSPEL that continues to inspire me and keep me focused on this transition and why it is necessary. The first quote reminds me that the mission dictates the structure and approach. Too often we want to hang on to how we do things even though they no longer work.
“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 channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself.” (#27)
The second quote from JOY OF THE GOSPEL reminds me that our family of parishes is on the front lines of evangelization that constantly needs to adapt, change and grow so that it can always be a home for everyone—especially those who are alone, lost, forgotten and pushed to the fringes. We don’t sit back and wait for people to come to us but we go out seeking to bring those in most need of Christ’s love to Him. The Christmas season reflects this most clearly as it brings extra generosity and compassion.
“The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’” (#28)
THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS
May the coming of Christ this Christmas stir our hearts to understand and embrace our mission to share the JOY OF THE GOSPEL here and now. May we have the grace and courage to change, adapt, sacrifice and serve so that the world may see Jesus in each one of us! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!