In the past two weeks, I have written about our mission statement by breaking it down into sections and this week I continue with the third section of the statement, which reads “by growing in holiness through our experience of Christ in word, sacrament, and one another.” An important word here is “growing” which means that we are in process and on the way. None of us is there yet, if “there” means some state of spiritual purity or perfection. The greatest of the saints were fully aware of their own flaws, and humbly stated them in their prayer before God.
The central place of encounter with Christ for us is the Sunday mass. It is here, with the assembled People of God gathered, that we remember (not re-enact) the events of that Thursday before Jesus died. None of us were there (on that night before he died), but when we gather as a community, we are there. The pattern of the Sunday mass is: hearing the word of God in the readings; remembering the words and witness of Jesus at the Last Supper; and living out those words and witness in our daily lives. The mass is continuous. The mass asks something of us – can we allow it to slowly begin to transform us, to make us men and women of mercy, compassion, kindness, gratitude, to draw us closer to God? It’s life-long, and that’s why the word “growing” is important.
Our encounter with Christ comes in word and sacrament (Sunday mass) and also, as the mission statement says, “in one another.” This means that going to mass is never a private, “me and God” experience. As in the life of Jesus, mass brings us to a rethinking of what “one another” means: is it the stranger; the leper; the prodigal son; the woman caught in adultery; the one who is hungry; thirsty; or in prison? All of these are characters that Jesus addresses in the gospel and this is why the “word” part of mass is so important; it’s because it’s here that we hear the stories of the encounters of Jesus which lead to amazement and disbelief among the religious authorities of his day and eventually lead to his being put to death. Jesus, in his stories and in his encounters is always expanding our understanding of who “one another” might be and in doing that, suggesting that, in these encounters, we find him.
Many thanks to one of our kindergarten students, Grace, whose answer to my question to her class, “Tell me about Jesus?” was “he was kind to people and wants for all of us to be kind to each other; he gives people food and lets them stay at his house if they need a home.” Her words give voice to our annual offertory appeal and the reason we ask you to be part of our mission; we need you to help build a house that’s spacious enough to hold God’s mercy and kindness. The annual offertory letters went out last week and we are grateful for your ongoing generosity at St. Francis.
Next weekend is a big weekend here: blessing of the animals on Saturday morning at 8:30 at the labyrinth; 160+ teenagers celebrating Confirmation later that day; and our annual FrancisFest on Sunday. And finally, two movie recommendations for late summer: “Hell or High Water” and “Sully.”
Blessings on your week!