Renew My Church: Making Disciples in Today’s World
Last week we did a little reality check, looking at the sad facts about how many of our young—and not so young—people have left the Faith. Renew My Church is the Archdiocese’s attempt at facing reality, considering the dwindling numbers, with fewer priests and financial resources throughout Chicago, and then ask: What shall we do?
Some try to make Mass more relevant, make it more entertaining, focusing on more modern music, engaging preaching, or on refreshments and socials after Mass. In other words, create an emotional experience that will attract people—especially young people—to church and make them feel good. But is this what Jesus would do, develop new programs and approaches? Is this what he commanded the apostles to do? Rather he said: “Go therefore and make disciples… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Church is Christ’s bride, not a building, and it belongs to him, as he said: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). So, it is not up to us to determine how it should look or how to make it more relevant. Let us look to him for guidance about what we should do, to discern, rediscover, and refocus our efforts on what got us here in the first place: worshipping God as Christ’s disciples through a personal relationship with the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit through prayer and Mass. Then we ought to go out and make disciples by sharing our faith with others. This may seem challenging today, but it was also a challenge 2000 years ago.
In the Book of Revelation Jesus told the Church at Ephesus:
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance… But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first… repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:2,4,5).
Let us return to our first love, Jesus Christ, which moved Catholics to build up the Church in Chicago years ago. Let us cultivation our faith in Christ and share that faith with others, letting them know how Christ and his Sacraments have made a difference in our lives. Then we will see more vocations to the priesthood, marriage, and dedicated celibacy.
Don’t Just Blame the Culture
St. Josemaría reminded us that Christianity and the Christian struggle is a very positive, uplifting Gospel—“good news”—not a negative. We are not anti-anything, nor anti-anyone.
Many millennials and other disengaged Catholics are tired of hearing us blaming the culture, or the Internet, or what-have-you. I have to admit that it is easy to do, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Pope Francis is constantly reminding us that our faith is an encounter, a positive and personal encounter with Jesus Christ who is the love of our lives.
When Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders of his times he did so face-to-face with the perpetrators themselves—“you blind guides,” he would say—trying to call each one to a real conversion. To the masses Jesus kept his message positive, teaching them how to live lives that contrasted with the culture: “Blessed are the…”
Let’s follow our Lord’s example. This is what is going to help us go forth and make disciples… Do not be afraid!
Fr. John R. Waiss
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