The Why of Renewal for Mission

By Christine Van Arsdale and Fr Paul Marshall, 17 November 2019
Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

 

What is the object of renewal? Surely it is about deepening the faith-life of believers, to enrich religious consciousness, and form a mature Christian approach to life leading to a deeper union with God.

Is there a Renewal Plan?

We keep hearing this question each time it’s introduced to others. So, we would like to unpack this a little and explain how we see Renewal.

It is not something we can hold or touch, it is not a plan we want to take to the people and say ‘look what we want to introduce’ and expect them to drop everything and run with it.

It is deeper than that. It is the very core of what God is calling us to be. It is Jesus, continuously directing his disciples, saying, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” (Mt 4:19)

When Jesus first slowly gathered his twelve disciples, he didn’t sit down one day and say, ‘Okay, here is the plan, now go out and do as I have asked.’

No, he gently developed their understanding, nurtured them, patiently explained repeatedly, told multitudes of parables to help them relate it to their daily lives and asked them simply to follow. Only slowly did they begin to comprehend what he was calling them to.

Even during these times there was much confusion and doubt. Where were they going and what was their place in all of this? This is something they had to find out for themselves and together.

They had to learn to love all people and see them as their brothers and sisters, to trust in Jesus and walk wherever he gently guided them, allowing time for the Holy Spirit to come into their lives and work through them.

This same journey is what we are asking each person. There is no ‘plan’ as such other than the plan that “has at its centre Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated.” (Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte).

It’s something organic that is unfolding before our very eyes. If there was a ‘plan’ that outlines ‘here we are, and this is what we are going to do’ we don’t believe it would be sustainable over time.

Why? Because it becomes a direction of others, not each person individually.

Conscious of the Risen Lord’s presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37).

We need each person to feel the Holy Spirit, guiding them on, to embrace what is unfolding before their very eyes. To say a strong and definite ‘Yes!’ to the journey God has for them. This could be using their gifts in leadership, ministry groups, reaching to the marginalised, in their families or all the above.

Just as it was still being uncovered to the disciples, it is still being uncovered to us. We can’t throw our nets further than our arms can reach. If we did, then some fishes will be missed.

So, we need to concentrate and grow our disciples, those key to our parish. Guide, nurture and help each one, at their level and pace until the Holy Spirit grows stronger in their hearts.

When this happens, we can then throw out a larger net, catching a few more. Then we repeat the nurturing, guiding and helping them to grow, and when they are ready, we cast our nets even further until eventually we are all walking the journey God has planned for each of us.

So no, there isn’t a specific plan, we don’t know what He is asking us to be or do here at Greystanes. All we know is that we must trust and follow, inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us in all we do each day. Let it be in interacting with people at work, writing contracts, balancing books, or spending time with family.

However, the overall plan found in Christ “must be translated into Pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community.” (Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte).

While we do not plan every detail, we are called to bring to life key hopes and dreams in practical ways with our community.

G.K. Chesterton once suggested that “the greatest of all illusions is the illusion of familiarity.” Familiarity is also the death of awe, respect and wonder.

When we have awe in the face of God, only then do we begin to set aside our own expectations, needs, and imaginings and let God set the agenda and define the limits. God’s plan is fluid, ever changing and growing.

The task for the Christian today is to help the world in its evolvement to its completion point which is Christ himself.

We know people want tangible answers and items to do, but are we then falling back into the space of ticking the boxes? Maybe, maybe not.

To make sure we are walking God’s path, rather than our own, it is critical to pause regularly, pray, discern (especially when you walk out from a formation day or talk and find yourself confused where it’s leading you) and listen to the Holy Spirit within you and others, so we can take a broader look and ask “how does this idea fit into the broader picture to ‘grow in the likeness of Jesus?’”

We know some may be frustrated or confused. You are not alone; it is confusing for us too. But we have found with this confusion comes a deeper trust in our Lord.

And no matter what comes and where our journey goes, we know that is more precious than anything else in the world for we have allowed Him to work in us and through us for all his people, brothers and sisters and you!

Christine Van Arsdale is the Parish Renewal Coordinator and Fr Paul Marshall is the parish priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes.

Please contact the Pastoral Planning Office on 8838 3441 to talk further about Renewal for Mission in your community.

 

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