Thursday, December 1, 2011
We've Got to Go Back to the Start
Very often, Fr. Luigi Giussani, the founder of the ecclesial movement "Communion and Liberation", would return to the Gospel account of Andrew and John leaving John the Baptist and following Christ. I think he saw in that moment the beginning of the Church. It was in that moment that the friendship between these disciples and Christ was born. Fidelity to the original method of Christ and the early Church requires a lot of faith. There seems to be a never ending attempt to come up with a better way than the original way.
I think of this because here in the Archdiocese of Boston, a series of consultations are about to begin on a new pastoral plan. The plan, in many ways, is driven by numbers; declining Mass attendence, fewer priests, parishes that can't pay their bills etc. The goal seems to be to move parishes from simply struggling to maintain what is presently there to a more evangelical, mission-based model. To that goal, I can only say, "Alleluia."
When I think of the church life in Boston, I sometimes think of a giant skyscraper. We keep busy cleaning the windows, painting the rooms, and adding floors. But, the skyscraper is built on thin wooden stilts. It is the foundation that needs work. The stilts cannot carry the burden of what has been built up over the years.
Sometimes, we focus our plans somewhere up on the 30th floor. But, as the Coldplay song says, "Take me back to the start."
We have to return--continuously--to the original method of Christ and, despite every temptation to replace that method, we have to become more faithful to it. That original method began with a fascination for Christ and with a friendship. It began with John the Baptist pointing to Christ and announcing, "Behold, the Lamb of God."
Any pastoral plan has to be modeled after the plan of Christ--the one true pastor. His plan was to draw others close to him, to form a friendship with them, and to draw them into communion. This is the method of the Gospel and it is a sacramental method. Every proposed plan, I think, has to compare itself with this fundamental plan. It is always tempting to skip over the foundation and worry about the trim colors. But in the Gospel, Jesus doesn't warn us about picking the wrong color schemes. He warns us about building upon a firm foundation. We need a plan that is fascinated with Christ and faithfully follows the method of Christ.
I don't know why (because it really shouldn't) but, it always surprises me when the Gospel works. Fidelity to Christ and his Gospel works! If we are faithful to his method, people are drawn to Christ and to his Church. If we are faithful to the original method, men enter the seminary, confession lines grow, young people come to Mass, people become Catholics, Catholics become more Catholic, and parishes grow. Without Christ, the net always comes up empty. With Christ, there is fullness.
None of this, by the way, is a criticism of the proposed plan. In fact, I hope that it is a monumental success, that I contribute faithfully to it, and that we are all part of doing something magnificent in the service of Christ. I just think sometimes we drift towards building better parishes, better schools, and better chancery departments, but we don't think about the fact that these things only exist so that we can all become better disciples of Christ and, "Go and make disciples." So, in my thinking about these things, I need be faithful to the beginning. If I am faithful to the foundation, then I trust Christ will build the rest.
We should all pray for the success of this new endeavor. I hope that at the very heart of this new plan is a renewed fascination for Christ and an evangelical fervor for making all things new in Christ.