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It is late April as I write this column. Our parish listening sessions, which are nearly complete — three to go — are revealing many things. I am hearing about the challenges we face as church, a wide variety of perspectives, some hope and gratitude, and a fair amount of frustration and disappointment.
Easter is a time to celebrate our faith in the Risen Jesus — he has saved us from our sins. If we do not believe in Jesus, we cannot make it to heaven on our own. Jesus told his disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6)
Particularly concerning were parishioners who were leaving not only our parish, but were leaving the Catholic faith. On the occasion that I had the opportunity to speak with people who were making this transition, I heard things like: “I’m not being fed here.” or “I’m not getting anything out of the Mass.” Such comments tend to betray a skewed perspective on why we are members of the church and why we attend Mass in the first place.
Over the years, I have noticed that the crowds that attend Mass on Ash Wednesday rival any other day of the year, including Easter and Christmas. This tells us there is something attractive about being called to renew our relationship with God, about the penitential nature of the day and season that is fundamentally about conversion.
In recent months, I’ve been prayerfully asking: “What kind of church is God calling us to be today?” I believe that much of the answer lies in the papacy of Pope Francis. As Saint Francis himself was called to “renew my church,” I believe we are being called to a renewal in our time by this pope. I’m all in!
During November our liturgical celebrations draw attention to the culmination of our earthly pilgrimage to the kingdom of heaven. We do well to ponder regularly the source of our life in God, the reason for our being expressed in God’s will, and our destination as eternity with God.
Many of our cultural challenges today will be solved only with a proper understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology is an appreciation of the truth that God creates every human person.