Grieving the parish or new life? People of God in action, in a new phase…

LaCroix, Oct 2020 excerpt

…are we not presented with a wonderful opportunity to be different, and radically so?

We can move beyond the pope’s first category of missionary discipleship and embrace his next portrayal of the People of God in action – that of radical missionary disciples.

They are like the fishermen who were sent back at the end of a long night on the water. They were not told to come in to warmth, comfort and sleep, but to go back for more – to put out into the deep and to continue searching for fish through the last hours of the night.

“Put out into the deep” (Luke 5, 4)

They were to put out into the deep and return when their nets were full to overflowing. It wasn’t easy then and we sure know it’s not easy now. That’s why Francis calls it radical discipleship.

I totally accept that means all of us – laity, priests, sisters, brothers, deacons and bishops.

It is also true that we have high expectations of bishops to move on synodality and much faster than they seem inclined. But they are not alone and we have to step up to play our part in the rejuvenation.

We are all the People of God: not them and us. Our radical role is now.

The Church is us – not over there or hidden in a church building. We, the People of God, are the Church, right here and now. The baptismal call of priest, prophet and king has rarely been stronger.

There is a strong argument that the pandemic provides the catalyst we have been waiting for to renew our Church. We know parts are broken and we have grievously sinned.

As we move out of that phase, in God’s redemptive love, we have the opportunity to “rebuild my Church” as St Francis heard Jesus urge him from the cross at San Damiano.

We will have to be smart, because – as Eric Hodgens warns – people are looking for new forms. But the parish remains the established vehicle with existing infrastructure and potential to adapt, change and transform. Radically so.

The real question is whether we are all ready to make the change, to go out into the night waters, seek the fish and help haul in the catch.

The parish on its knees – in prayer, not in rejection or grief – will be the start. Then, with the benefit of the Lord’s abundant grace, let’s put out into the deep!

Justin Stanwix is a deacon in the Diocese of Wollongong, Australia. He is passionate about Parish and full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.

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