fewer mission statements and more mission work

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 9

“Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 25)

OK…hands up if you’ve ever answered the call to give of your time and talents to parish life. Have you ever sat on a pastoral or diocesan committee? Have you belonged to a church based organization or movement?

Next question. If you answered yes to any of the above, how many hours have you spent in meetings…in discussing strategies…finances…budgets….minutes….recruiting drives….

All good works require some organization and administration. Sadly, we can easily lose site of our goals amid mountains of paperwork. We give more importance to task-filled agendas than simple relationship forming and community building. We spend more energies on marketing and nice sounding mission statements than being actual missionaries.

We cannot underestimate the radical nature of Evangelii Gaudium. Francis is warning us that expending too much effort on ecclesial structures can “hamper efforts at evangelization.” We are being called to advance “along a path of a pastoral and missionary conversion.” This is a major paradigm shift, one that requires a deep reform

What would your particular ministry in the church look like if it was truly driven by a “new life” and an “authentic evangelical spirit”?

taking on the smell of sheep

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An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 8

Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. (Evangelii Gaudium, 24)

Pope Francis has already used this term to describe the role of priests. Here, he is using the term to describe the responsibility we all share,

An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. (EG, 22)

Again, Francis is preaching a major message of reform using the most simple of images. Can you think of a clearer way to describe the need to leave the four walls of the church and go out into the world? This image goes beyond the traditional one of dumb sheep obediently following their shepherd. The shepherds are to go out and BE with the sheep.

You cannot lead when you have allowed a chasm to form between you and those you serve. Dialogue cannot take place if you plant your feet firmly on mountains too high to hear or be heard. Compassion and healing require a physical presence and a physical touch.

the unruly freedom of God’s word!

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 7

God’s word is unpredictable in its power…The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking. (Evangelii Gaudium, 22.)

What a glorious description of God’s word. Unpredictable in its power! Unruly freedom! How would our own faith journey change if we truly embraced the word of God as an extreme adventure, a challenge with a surprise around every corner? This can happen when we put aside preconceived images and well known interpretations and dare to open our ears and hearts to newness.

One of the easiest and best ways to do this is through the practice of lectio divina. The Advent season is full of rich scriptural readings. Take a look at today’s readings. Stop….ponder….chew them over…and just sit in the solitude and listen. Let the unruly freedom and unpredictable power of God’s word take over!