Advent begins. It’s a season for preparation: First, for the coming of Christ as our Lord and Judge. Second, for the celebration of his first coming at Christmas. Advent can therefore also be our spiritual preparation for our implementation of the Bishop’s initiative, On Mission for The Church Alive! Under the watchful eye of our coming Judge, let us set aside our other ambitions and allow him to ready us to fulfill his purposes.
I emphasize preparation because quite a few people have asked me to “get it over with.” They follow it up with something like this composite account: “No more delays! We know the Church is not just about buildings. We young people, especially, aren’t attached to buildings or institutions the way that older folks might be. We just want to get out and be on mission, be evangelizing. So let’s get all the necessary consolidations out of the way and get started!”
It is a noble ambition to evangelize. It’s also true that the Church isn’t only or even primarily about the buildings or the programming. So let’s acknowledge the essential truth and goodness of those who are eager to be on the way.
At the same time, please note that the reason the Church isn’t primarily about buildings or programming is that the Church is primarily about the people—or more precisely, how our Lord Jesus is saving his people. To be ready for any consolidation requires us to be ready for the people: To encourage them in faith, and when they fail to forgive them and help them to return to living the faith. Consider Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Church in Philippi:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
I’ve met several of the faithful who have boasted of their courage in facing consolidations, living obediently, and proclaiming the faith boldly. These are valuable virtues. But we also need people with a collaborative spirit and compassionate hearts who can discern the needs of others and prioritize them. Show me that we’re ready for people, and then I’ll believe that we’re ready for our shared mission—ready to RocKenRo.