Last weekend, on Saturday morning, the day before Pentecost, about 70 people, leaders of the different ministries in our parish, came together for our sixth annual Leadership Conference. We took the morning to reflect on the goings-on here in our parish, and to consider how we can better our efforts to make real our discipleship of Jesus. Pentecost is a fitting time to reflect on how we put “skin” on our discipleship as a parish. As we take leave of our Easter Season, it can be very easy for us to quickly forget the power of Pentecost, and the reminder it brings to us of our mission as a church. We are to be about making disciples for the Lord Jesus. It is our mission to carry on the mission of Jesus himself. He put it very plainly in Matthew’s gospel.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20)
Pentecost moves us to remember who we are as a Church, and calls us to faithfulness to the mission of Jesus. Sometimes, I think we are content to forget this because our lives are already busy enough and we don’t have the time or the inclination to put “skin” on the mission of Jesus in our lives. But at other times, I think that one of the reasons we hold back is because we think that there is little that we can do. We think that there are others who can do more or better than we can. We think that the little we have to offer isn’t enough. Perhaps all of these have some truth to them for us, but there is a prayer that I have always found helpful to move me out of the temptation to such thinking. The prayer is attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, to be declared a saint in October. (The prayer was actually written by Bishop Ken Untener for use in a homily given by Cardinal Deardon)
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts. It is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
“No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
“That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
“We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Here at Lourdes we are mightily blessed by God. There are wonderful opportunities for all of us to get involved, to become engaged in different ways of serving among God’s people and of sharing our time, our talent and our treasure. While we mostly live our faith in the give and take of our families and in our workplaces, we also look to something beyond ourselves and our own immediate concerns. There is no shortage of opportunities to grow in our stewardship of the graces heaped upon us by God as people of faith. There is always more to be done, and there are always ways in which we can make our respective contributions. As pastor, if I waited every time until I had everything all figured out and finalized, I would never be able to give myself in service. And as pastor, I always encourage others to just roll up their sleeves, do what can be done, and then give it over to God who surely blesses our efforts and who brings all to fruitfulness. The important thing is that we make the effort, and then we trust that the Lord will bring all to fulfilment according to divine providence. We make this effort while remembering the final words of Matthew’s gospel proclaimed in our church today: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” This is good news, indeed.