Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rediscovering the Joy of the Urgent Love of Christ

Eight years ago when I became the pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, it was in the midst of an urgent financial crisis.  I can remember the finance council convening weekly for meetings that would extend past 11pm.  I won’t bother listing all of the problems that hit us all at once, but they were many and they all seemed to be “urgent.”  While I have no desire to re-live those days, valuable lessons can be learned from them.
The urgency that all of us felt in those days became a common responsibility.  We experienced a remarkable increase in the weekly offertory and the Grand Annual.  We experienced an extraordinary generosity in terms of people giving their time and their expertise to the parish.  And we experienced a taste of what the infant Church was like when St. Luke described it: “The community of disciples was of one mind and one heart.”  In short order, we accomplished a lot.  We grew as a parish, we stabilized our finances, and vocations began to flourish.  We did some amazing things—like painting the entire interior of the church.  It all began with a sense of urgency.

Interior After Painting

Once again today, there are certainly urgent matters before us.  One of my parishes confronts serious financial burdens and the other has seen an offertory that has stagnated.  There are considerable capital projects that are on the horizon that are are becoming urgent.  There are urgent moral issues confronting the culture and society that require a response. But, I would like to propose a more urgent task.  In order to feel the urgency of this task, one needs truly to be rooted in Christ and in the Faith.
There is an urgency of mission.  All the other urgencies, I think, would be more easily resolved if we felt more urgently the mission of the Church to “go and make disciples.”  And to feel this urgency, we ourselves must be convinced of the Faith and filled with love for Jesus and the Church.  When our faith is weak, we become lukewarm in fulfilling the urgent mission that is ours to dedicate ourselves to the proclamation of the Gospel.  When our faith is strong, we experience in our very bones the necessity of living the mission of the Church.  Like Jeremiah the prophet, when we truly know and love the Lord, then we are compelled to speak about Him and to dedicate ourselves to serving Him.  Simply put, either God is the most important part of our life, or He isn’t.  Either we are fully committed Christians, or we are not.
  In every Christian and in every Christian community, there is an urgency built in.  The motto of the Catholic High School that I attended--Archbishop Williams--was “Caritas Christi Urget Nos.”  It is taken from the Fifth Chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.  “The Love of Christ Urges (drives, compels) Us On.”  One determining factor of the spiritual health of individual Christians and of Christian communities is their level of commitment to spreading the Gospel.  And of course, if this level of commitment is missing, it might well be that the underlying faith of the individuals or the community is in need of strengthening.
This coming October begins the Year of Faith.  It is given to us by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the purpose of deepening our own faith and rediscovering the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel and evangelizing others.  As a shepherd, I want my parishes to rediscover the beauty of our Faith and to feel more urgently the task of evangelization.  Our parishes need priests and people who know and love Jesus Christ more and who are compelled by that love to announce Him to others. 
May the Love of Christ Urge Us On to be more faithful believers, more generous givers, more steadfast defenders of the Faith, more ardent heralds of the Gospel, and more authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ.  Together—one in mind and one in heart—let us rediscover the joy of being caught up in the urgency of the love of Christ.

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