In our current Church culture, the priest shortage and our abysmal post-confirmation retention rate have led many congregations to spend countless days, weeks, and months agonizing over the perfect wording to revitalize their mission statement in hopes that an inspiring mission will renew their parish. If this is where you currently find your parish, it’s time to consider two truths: 1) Jesus has already given the Church it’s mission statement, so your energies are likely better spent elsewhere. 2) Mission statements will never bring people to the Church. Jesus and his disciples bring people to the Church. No matter how inviting or clever your turn of phrase is, your parish will not be refreshed simply by coining a new mission statement.
The Pharisees and Sadducces came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He said to them in reply, “In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’; and, in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times. An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.
-Matthew 16: 1-4
2000 years later, it’s easy to see that the Sadducces and Pharisees are being ridiculous.
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Luke 12:49
Jesus goes on to say, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." He has come to pit two against three, and a son against his father, and mother against daughter. Truth often leads to conflict.
In my first few years of ministry, I experienced a powerful conversion.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
— Matthew 7: 7
This verse has always given me a mental image of prayer that looks like this: I am standing in front of a giant door, the door to Jesus' house, waiting for Jesus to open it and let me in; the assumption of course is that Jesus is just on the other side, waiting for me to knock; just watching. He knows I'm out here. Why doesn't he simply let me in? Is this really how God operates?
It's funny how everything becomes silent and still before the experience of impact. "Oh *BLEEP*." These were the not-so-poetic words that permeated the silence before my car accident in 2011. Two words. A simple prayer. "Lord, help!" probably would have been more appropriate, but Jesus heard my intention, even if the articulation of my request fell short (Good news for someone so often lacking). At the last moment
My wife and I have been married for almost a full iPhone generation. This said, I feel like I can speak from a place of experience when I say that I didn't really know my wife when we got married. We have navigated some treacherous waters together: right/wrong ways to hang up our towels, whether or not a couch cover is an improvement, and where we should keep our shoes. Moments like these plumb the depths of the human soul forging lasting bonds within our blessed union. I can say honestly that she is so much more than who I thought she was. I hope she would say the same about me.
Anyone who has worked in the field of ministry has experienced the tension between providing effective ministry and proving that they deserve their salary. In the interest of the latter, we often strive for busy ministry and call it a great achievement when we find a program that gets 60 people out to the parish regularly on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Meanwhile, 1500 families are registered at our parishes, and only 400 people show up to Mass on the weekend.