Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Humanity, You Either Have It or You Don't

This morning, as I was walking into Mass, I gave a quick wave to a policeman who was up the road a bit.  He held up his finger asking me to wait a minute and he hurried down and met me outside the church.  We shook hands and he asked, "Father, is it true that you're leaving?"  "Yeah, it is," I replied.  "Well," said he, "I'm really disappointed to hear that and I'm really going to miss you."  He's not a parishioner of mine, but over the years I've come to know and have a good relationship with the police in town.

That small interaction not only made my day, but it also provided something that can sometimes be lacking in ecclesial structures: humanity.  His taking the time to walk down the road a bit, shake my hand, and to exchange some recognition that the present situation is disappointing was the human thing to do.  What came naturally to this policeman is often lost in the bureaucracy of ecclesial life.  And, even when such things are present in bureaucracies, they can tend to be inhuman in the execution.  A guy hurrying up the street to seize an opportunity to express the human realities of a situation is more consoling than something that feels like it was decided at a conference table.
We should be cautious in the implementation of the new pastoral plan that the personal and the human are not lost in the graphs and in the statistics.  Pastoral planning is more about the priest and the cop standing on the side of the road than it is about the chart on the wall.  The pastoral plan will likely succeed or fail based upon how well it treats the humanity of those involved.  A handshake and a kind word today made me more committed and dedicated to that guy and his fellow police officers.  The interaction lasted all of two minutes, but it was human.  The mission of the Church, in part, is to show others how life in Christ makes us more fully human.  If the implementation of the pastoral plan is to be successful, it needs to be about the human person.  And such a full humanity is not something that can be plotted out in a ten point plan.  That type of humanity arises out of an encounter with Jesus Christ and it either permeates everything about our life or it doesn't.  The New Evangelization is about the new life--the new humanity--that is available in Christ.  People standing on the street--if they are to come into the Church--have to be shown that a greater humanity is available in the Church than what they can find elsewhere.  If they discover that our humanity is lacking, shallow, or hollow, they'll stick with the humanity they can find out on the street.

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