Pope Francis and the challenge of being church today
Ann D Clark Lecture delivered by Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, 18 August 2016
Part 5: Conclusion
In summary, I believe we are living in a time of grace and hope precisely because this fallow time allows us to rid ourselves of what is unworthy of Christ and to grow more deeply in our identity and mission as his disciples. Hence, it is the time to reclaim for the Church:
* Less a role of power, dominance and privilege but more a position of vulnerability and powerlessness;
* Less an enclosure for the virtuous but more an oasis for the weary and downtrodden;
* Less an experience of exclusion and elitism but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity;
* Less of an attitude of ‘we are right and you are wrong’ and more of an attitude of openness to truth wherever and whoever it is to be found;
* Less a leadership of control and clericalism but more a diakonia of a humble servant exemplified by Christ at the Last Supper;
* Less a language of condemnation but more a language of affirmation and compassion; and
* Less a preoccupation for its own maintenance but more a concern for the Kingdom of God
In the end, though, I firmly believe that we’re on the threshold of renewal and transformation. The Second Vatican Council set in motion a new paradigm that cannot be thwarted by fear and paralysis. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back. That new paradigm is one that is based on mutuality not exclusion, love not fear, service not clericalism, engagement with the world not flight from or hostility against it, incarnate grace not dualism. The Holy Spirit is at work even at a time of great anguish. He accompanies us as we move in the direction of the Kingdom.
Pope Francis has unleashed a new energy, he has poured a new wine which cannot be contained in old wineskins. He has challenged us to move in concert with him and bring about the rebirth of the church. I am endeavouring to follow the pope’s lead. I have forfeited my Qantas Club membership, which is not a big deal these days. I fly with Tiger regularly – on a wing and a prayer. But that’s the easy part. The harder part is to do what most of you do, which is to labour at the coalface of the church. It is to have the smell of the sheep, to walk with people, identifying with them in their struggles, their questions and their uncertainties. It is to discern and live out the vision of hope in the midst of life’s disappointments.
May we be like the prophets for our people during this our contemporary exile. May we be strengthened to walk the journey of faith with them, proclaim the message of hope, the signs of the new Kairos and lead them in the direction of the Kingdom. May all of us enact the rhythm of the paschal mystery of dying and rising in the pattern of our Lord who is the Alpha and the Omega.
To read the full text of the Bishop’s lecture, click here.