Dear friends in Christ:
The last several months have provided me with some time to sit, read, be quiet, think and pray. As I have reflected, one of the more difficult challenges has been to sort through things (what needs to be done, what to do and what to do first). As I have pondered on where we are as a parish, I’ve concluded there is much for which to give thanks to God. SJV has always been a wonderful parish and continues to be so. I joke with my brother priests that being pastor of SJV is the easiest job in the world because the parishioners are so wonderful. That being said (and it is true!), we still have our challenges. Here is my list of challenges that we face, you can have your own and you are welcome to share them with me.
Holiness. I know that this is a big topic. But holiness is our JOB ONE (Lv 11:45, 1 Pt 1:16). How does each and every member of SJV grow daily in holiness? Are we trying? Are we making any progress? How can we do better? Holiness is nothing more than living in God and allowing God to live in us. It is relationship. It comes from following Jesus more and more each day. How do we increase the fire of love for God in our hearts, as individuals, as families, as a parish?
Discipleship. This of course is tied to holiness. Jesus gave us the mission of becoming disciples and making disciples of others (Mk 1:17, Mt 28:19). For too many of us, our faith in Jesus Christ is more akin to being an occasional football fan (we watch sometimes on TV, perhaps even buy a jersey or maybe catch the playoffs but really we just go for the Super Bowl party and to watch the commercials!). To be a disciple is so different and so much more! It is our life’s purpose and motivation. It is our identity. It is that of which we can never get enough. It is the joy that keeps us going and that we want everyone to share. It is what we live for and are literally willing to die for! How does that square with leaving mass early or skipping mass altogether, picking and choosing which doctrines to follow or praying only when we want or need something? How does that compare with living as though being a Catholic is only “sometimes” important? Jesus wants us to be His disciples and to make disciples of all peoples because it is so much more than we could ever imagine. Look at the saints. Have you ever seen a sad saint?
Community. What do you know – this is tied to both holiness and discipleship! As a BIG parish it is easy to just be one in the crowd. With little effort, we can come to mass every week and never know anyone and have no one know us. That is not what Jesus has in mind when he calls us to discipleship and holiness and it is simply not good for any us when that happens. We are literally all in this together. When any of us fall through the cracks it weakens all of us. When we let those around us fall by the waysides, they lose and we lose! As a pastor, one of my constant challenges is how to invite, encourage and support you to be the community that Jesus calls us to be. Running the parish like a service station or a country club is a heck of lot easier and both models have their positive aspects and I know we could be really good at it. Yet, this is not what the Lord calls us to be. What the Lord calls us to be is One Bread, One Body in Christ. Remember the prayer of Jesus for us at the Last Supper “Holy Father, I pray that they may be one as we are one!” (Jn 17.11) That my dear friends, is a lot more wonderful than what we currently settle for and yes, it is more difficult and takes more work.
Holiness, Discipleship and Community are not just cute little words or feel good sentiments. They are our vocation, our call. Jesus wants these gifts to be realities in our lives and in our parish. Jesus desires them for us for he knows that we need these gifts and these gifts are good for us. In reality, the gifts of holiness, discipleship and community are inseparable and they require our deliberate effort.
To grow in holiness is to live discipleship more intensely, to be a faithful disciple is to strengthen the bonds of our communion with one another in the Lord and to live more fully in communion is to grow in holiness.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately