Renew My Church: Building Community

Wrestling with declining church attendance and fewer vocations to the priesthood, we have been considering: What would Christ have us do? Change our liturgy and outreach to match the current or return to the ways that Christ used and transmitted to his disciples?

Cardinal Cupich has challenged Chicago Catholics to encounter and listen to Christ. A sincere encounter with the Risen Lord makes us into true disciples of Christ who then calls us to renew his Church by making Disciples of all nations, as we saw last week, which happens when we invite others to a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.

But Jesus tells his disciples: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Being Christ’s disciples means loving one another, resulting in our Building Communities.

Many of our youth and young adults don’t see the Church as relevant to their lives: they can make friends, graduate from college, find a partner, have and mentor children (if they choose have them), and become prosperous in the culture in which they grew up… in a culture which they love… in a culture which is at odds with, and misunderstood by, the Church. They see the culture wars as a war on them and their peers. They don’t want to be called “Christian” or “Catholic” because they perceive those labels with judgmental, bullying, and condemnatory attitudes towards others.

Yet millennials—and all of us—long for love, they long for the source of love, and they long for the community and family, which true love creates.

So, the best way to evangelize millennials is for us to fall in love with Jesus Christ—to become one of his disciples—and then to love one another as Christ has loved us. We don’t appreciate how attractive this is, to build up a community of love. Loving and welcoming communities naturally invites others to come to share in that community. So many people today speak about how lonely they are and then try to fill that loneliness with computer games, social media, or anonymous encounters. We have so much to offer when we truly love another as disciples of Christ and then welcome others—through offering them an encounter with him—into this loving community of Christ’s disciples.

We don’t need to judge others for their lifestyle choices and failings—only God is the judge. We simply need to introduce them to Jesus Christ and he is the one to offer them his grace and forgiveness—as he did the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:2-11); he will welcome them back into his family, like the father of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-32). We just need to love one another, which will attract others to the Church, which will lead them to Christ.

This is how Catholic parishes and schools will grow in their mission vitality. This is how we will witness to others as true disciples of Christ, by the love we have for one another.

Fr. John R. Waiss


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