It sounds like a paradox, but Jesus taught us with his life that the key to conquering death is surrendering to the Father in trust. The key moments in salvation history demonstrate this: Noah listening to God and building the ark, Abraham leaving his country for a land he did not know and later being willing to sacrifice Isaac, David confronting Goliath with stones and faith in God, and finally, Jesus trusting in the Father’s plan for him to give his life on the cross for us.
As we have progressed through the process of listening during the Archdiocesan Synod gatherings, we have engaged in trusting the Father and surrendering to his plan for the Church at this moment. The question we are asking is, “How is God asking us to bring the Gospel to a society that is intentionally secular?”
We must begin, as I have said in previous columns and talks, with encountering Jesus personally and in the sacraments. And with the outpouring of his grace, we must seek to “put on the mind of Christ” and cultivate an apostolic approach to the world around us so we are spiritually equipped for its challenges.
Any effective strategist will tell you that achieving victory requires knowing what your mission is, and so I’d like to provide you with the mission of several key areas of the Church, keeping in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. With these missions in mind, I invite you to listen to the Holy Spirit for how they can be accomplished and to share those inspirations with your parish, family and friends.
Mission of the Church
The Church exists to extend in time the mission of Jesus to rescue all people, and through the Holy Spirit, to impart the life of Jesus to them. This reunites us with God the Father and glorifies him. It is best summed up in Jesus’ parting words to the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
Mission of the Parish
The mission of the parish is directly connected to the mission of the Church since it takes the broader mission, Christ’s rescue mission, and brings it to local communities. Because local needs, talents and cultures differ, what this looks like will vary, while the core mission remains the same.
A good analogy is to think of your parish as an embassy located on foreign soil. Upon entering it, you should be able to tell that it’s different and the people there are different. This outpost, like an embassy, is not bound by the rules of the host country and while there you can’t be apprehended by the host country.
In this scenario, the foreign country you are living in is the world and its ruler is Satan, but you can defect and no longer be subject to the power of sin and death. Parishes are called to be these embassies of the God’s kingdom and to extend citizenship and freedom to every person possible.
Mission of the Disciple
A disciple is a student who is entrusted with passing on the way of life and teachings of the master teacher. In the Christian life, this means meeting and experiencing Jesus in a personal way and accepting him as our Lord, allowing him to direct our lives and trusting in him. The mission of a disciple is to become a saint, and this begins with our baptism, when we are made sons or daughters of the Father through Jesus, and is continually nourished through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation. While the journey will differ depending on how God has gifted and called us, each person is tasked with bringing Jesus’ reconciliation, healing and freedom to others.
Mission of the Family
For many people, their family is the primary place where they serve as a disciple. It is the place where they offer the gift of themselves to their spouses, children, siblings and parents. Indeed, St. John Paul II spoke about the family as “the basic cell of society … the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual ‘is born’ and ‘grows’” (Christifidelis Laici, 40).
We will not have the strength to selflessly love our families, our parish, our neighbors or our enemies unless we recognize our dependence on God for his love and allow him to sustain us.
Mission of Catholic Schools
Any discussion of Catholic schools must begin with the fact that parents are the primary educators of their children and are responsible for forming them in the faith. In fact, the schools that do the best are those where parents lay the spiritual foundation and the teachers can build upon it.
The mission of a Catholic school is to help lead young people to Jesus, mature in their faith and prepare them to share it with the world. In other words, academics and sports are certainly a part of students’ formation, but they are not the most important aspect of it.
As we move through the Synod discernment process and ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to do in the Archdiocese of Denver, having clarity about the mission of these closely related areas prepares us to hear his response to the world we live in.
The history of the Church demonstrates that if we are willing to trust the Father, nothing is impossible. How else could fishermen from the byways of Galilee change the world and give their lives for the sake of the Faith? God has made us for these times, and if we trust him and ask for his grace, the impossible will become possible.