We managed to escape the path and wrath of Dorian, but she wasn’t so kind to the people of the Bahamas. We pray for them as they mourn their lost loved ones, and we have begun to help them with funds and relief packages. The Knights of Columbus have begun to collect necessary items and funds , and as soon as we get the “high sign” from our diocese, we will deliver additional aid. Their Archbishop is a good friend, and we spent a good deal of time together at the recent Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. He has related to me some of the damage brought on by the destructive powers of the worst hurricane he can remember. Thanking God and our Blessed Mother, we were spared such a tragedy, and now we look to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters living less than sixty miles from Delray Beach. I’ll post more information on assistance as soon as we get it.
Speaking of the Blessed Virgin, although this 23rd Sunday of the Church year has liturgical precedence, September 8th usually marks the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God. She is the first among all the saints because she said yes to God in a very special way.
We know it’s possible for us to be a saint, but is it probable? To be a saint means to live a life of holiness, and we grow in holiness by following Jesus as His disciples. In the Gospel passage from St. Luke, Jesus tells us that discipleship demands single-minded loyalty. It demands total and complete focus on the kingdom of God. Absolute loyalty to Jesus and His mission is required of every disciple. It even surpasses the loyalty demanded by one’s family. Every disciple of Jesus must be prepared to endure suffering. Jesus says we must carry our own crosses. Being a follower of Jesus requires the willingness to suffer what He suffered. Discipleship also means that everything—including possessions—must take second place to the kingdom of God.
Closely related, then, to the notion of discipleship is the concept of stewardship. In the First Letter of St. Peter, he writes of stewardship in these words: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
The art of growing in God’s grace is the key to growth in the Church. Building a culture of growth in the Church starts with inviting people to experience the love of Jesus Christ.
I have given much thought to how it is that we can begin a process of strategic planning for growth in our parish. The growth envisioned is far more than just a quantitative increase in the number of people or the amount of money available to our projects in our parish. It is also essential to ensure that we give significant attention to the qualitative growth that will guarantee sustainability for generations that follow.
There are four things needed to build a vibrant community of saints:
1. Hospitality: Invite people to join us in prayer, especially Sunday Mass;
2. Formation: Study the Bible, and learn more about Jesus and our Catholic faith through it and the various instructional classes we hold;
3. Prayer: Provide the Sacraments as signs of hope and paths of grace to heaven; and,
4. Service: Serve those in need by practicing charity and justice.
The verbs in these four action items correspond to the four pillars of stewardship and discipleship that we often talk about in our parish: hospitality, formation, prayer and service. We can all communicate more broadly the message of invitation.
Through prayer, discernment, and consultation with others, it has become evident that the Lord is inviting us to embrace more fully our call to discipleship out of which necessarily follows a life of stewardship. Stewardship recognizes that everything we have comes from God. We are stewards whether we recognize it or not and whether we like it or not. Stewardship from God’s perspective is that He has given us gifts to be used not just selfishly for ourselves, but to be shared with others. Becoming a disciple means making an intentional decision to accept the Lord’s call to follow Him and live the discipleship and stewardship way of life.
I know that such a plan for growth may seem quite ambitious, but it is one about which I am very optimistic, especially given what this parish has to offer, and the many ways in which various groups are already poised to contribute to that growth. A key element that is essential to this plan for growth is the leadership that evolves from those parishioners who get involved in one of the ministries and organizations of our parish that helps form us — Christ’s Body. But they cannot do this alone. They need the help and cooperation of all parishioners. To be able to put into practice the mission of Jesus, we all need to be part of a team that supports each other. So, strive to be “intentional disciples” of the Lord and good stewards of the gifts entrusted to us for the growth of the Church as we journey together toward our inheritance in the glory of Heaven.