Called to be disciples to the world
I was honored to be part of the envisioning team named by Archbishop George J. Lucas. Our task was to assist him in interpreting the responses from the many listening and focus sessions he hosted earlier this year and discern a shared vision for this archdiocese.
As the archbishop has said, what he heard most clearly during the process is that people had "a desire for more." They held a desire for more in terms of faith, a sense of belonging and ways to reach others. What an astounding testament to the church in this archdiocese. It was personal, certainly, as people were looking for ways to deepen their own faith and that of their families, but it was also an enormously Christian response: how can we, as a church, reach those who do not feel they belong and those who desperately need our support?
This sensibility is at the core of the vision articulated, One Church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy. This will be our charge for the coming years. I find it especially profound that, as Archbishop Lucas notes, "Our challenges are very similar to the challenges faced by the first generation of Christians," including the lack of cultural support for living the Gospel today that existed a few generations ago.
St. Paul speaks often of these challenges that the very early church faced. But in this weekend’s second reading, his letter is about a vision and a plan. He describes a "spirit of holiness" that comes from the grace of apostleship and belonging to Jesus Christ.
This is St. Paul’s call to the Romans, which is not unlike the purpose of the archdiocesan vision – "to inspire every person in the archdiocese to live as a vibrant disciple of Jesus, responding to their vocation of holiness, being sent out as leaven to transform the world, fulfilling their deepest human desire."
During this Advent season, we are preparing for the coming of Christ into our hearts, but are we ready for holiness? Are we prepared to be leaven, to be Christ, to transform the world? We can be thankful that as we wait for Christ, Christ is waiting for us.
That sense of his anticipation is so life-giving, and I am reminded of one particular depiction of this. There is a life-sized statue of Jesus at the Servants of Mary Motherhouse in Omaha. He is seated on a stone facing the entrance to their lovely Healing Garden.
His face, hands and body all sing anticipation. I can almost hear Jesus saying, "Oh, Shannan! I have been waiting, and I am so happy to see you! Come, sit beside me. Tell me how you are, and let me tell you how much you are loved."
That is the awesome encounter for which we are preparing this Advent season. And may that encounter and the transformational knowledge of his love give us the courage to be holy, to face the challenges of our culture and to be the disciples who bring that love to transform the world.
Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at email@example.com.