Outreach, Engagement

Dear Friends in Christ,

In last week’s bulletin I made mention of the priorities for our parish:

Outreach – Engagement – Discipleship – Leadership

These priorities are going to be around for some time. They will guide, direct and shape, our parish activities and form us as a parish community and as individuals of faith. As you have heard before, Jesus gave His church a mission, not a maintenance plan! As Catholics and as parishioners of St. John Vianney parish we are all called to live and be part of the mission. We are commissioned by Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations!” (Mt 28:19). That is a BIG challenge but not an impossible one! This mission given to us by the Lord can be adapted to our own individual and particular circumstances but cannot be ignored. In other words, all are called and none are exempt. This is the mission of every Christian. It is the mission of all of the baptized.

OUTREACH. When looking at these priorities one of the common attributes is that they are all active and none of them are passive. These priorities are in response to God’s love for us. As God has actively poured forth his love and grace upon us we are to actively respond. Faith is the response to God’s love. In faith, we are to share the gifts that we have received. We cannot be dormant and do nothing. To reach out to others is to love them and share the love of God with others. We do this when we pray for others. We do this when we tell others of Jesus and his love for us. We do this when we serve others and we do this especially when we invite others to join us in following Jesus. Too often we see our reach out to others as merely a plea for assistance with a task. Our outreach is more than a “Help Wanted” plea. Certainly there are plenty of tasks and they all require willing hands, but the ultimate goal is something far greater. Yet at the same time, following the example of the Lord Jesus, we can and should start out small. Jesus’ first invitation to the disciples was simple: “come and see” (Jn 1.39). This can be our invitation as well. We can all invite a neighbor or friend or even a family member to “come and see” the Mass, a bible study, Joseph’s Coat, a Lenten Dinner, a St. Anne’s meeting. The first step is often the most difficult but it can also be the simplest. It often takes a repeated invitation before people will say “yes”. A most important feature of our outreach and invitation is accompaniment. We invite others to join us and we act as their host, guide and companion, just as St. Andrew did with his brother, Peter (Jn 1.42).

ENGAGEMENT. One of the remarkable things in the gospels is how Jesus was able to move people from being passive spectators to active disciples. When we look to Jesus and his “method” what we often see is that Jesus begins by getting people engaged. He moves them from listening to doing. The doing early on is not monumental stuff. He gives easy, simple and uncomplicated tasks at the onset. Jesus asks for help with the crowds or to bring a sick person to him. He asks the servants at the wedding feast in Cana to help with the water jars; he asks the Samaritan woman at the well to give him a drink. Jesus engages the people and then asks them to become engaged in an action. These small initial actions lead to life changing and magnificent results. So too, can we experience miracles in our lives and the lives of others by becoming engaged. It may be helping serve at one of the parish dinners, swinging a hammer at one of our home building missions, it could be serving as an usher in Mass, bringing communion to the homebound, taking an hour a week in Adoration, volunteering in the food pantry or chaperoning a youth activity. As we become engaged and, as we invite others to become engaged, we soon discover that we gain far more than we give.

To be continued.

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy