As the Church prepares itself for the Feast of Christmas we hear the call to ‘stay awake’ in expectation and longing for Jesus Christ, the one in whom God enters human history and who leads humanity back to God. We will soon celebrate the fact that God has not entered into a mere sympathy with human existence but literally lived it, been born within it, so that we might follow him in the fabric of our own lives.
The season of Advent calls us to prepare our hearts to receive this gift of Christ completely and unconditionally. We are called to entrust ourselves to Him, to realise that the birth of this man who is God is the birth of a new creation, of our new selves, if we allow it to be.
This journey of spiritual renewal has already begun as the Diocese of Parramatta, with the conclusion of the first year of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future. Our blog readers will know much has been achieved in the past twelve months. This accomplishment has been enabled by our common vision under grace, the united direction we have in hand, to grow in faith ourselves and share that faith with others for the building up of God’s Kingdom.
As a Pastoral Planning Office, we have visited countless parishes, parish pastoral councils, ministry reflection days and formation sessions, hosted leadership days, assembled resources and networked with people and partner organisations to drive and strengthen our common mission. The support and passion among the people we have met has been a tremendous source of joy and affirmed our conviction that Faith in Our Future is much more than a document but a living vision that animates and brings clarity to all that we do as the Church in Western Sydney.
Speaking to a parish pastoral council in the east of our Diocese this past week, there was a strong consensus among the participants that parishes need not fall into resignation or mere routine. Rather than ‘staying awake’ as Advent exhorts, if we are comfortable in our communities but not missionary, if we attend but not reach out to others, if we receive but do not share by word and witness, we would be found asleep in the face of the greater holiness and mission that God calls forth in each one of us. To the extent that we receive His missionary and outreaching Spirit in our lives and communities, we are the Church we are waiting for.
As you prepare for Christmas personally and communally as parishes, remember you can now download our latest resource Welcome & Evangelise from our website. It contains an array of helpful ideas and resources to assist your community welcome all those who join us at this time of year at our Christmas liturgies and events. It is a time when people who are not ordinarily with us on any given weekend, or who may feel distant from the Church, can be among us making some connection between their life and faith. It is also a time of year when hundreds of people get to church early! How can we make the most of this unique opportunity and speak with these crowds and share our Catholic faith with living joy and real impact?
Let us know how your parish is planning to welcome and evangelise this Christmas by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your best initiatives and ideas. We are always eager to hear from our blog readers and to share your creative ideas with other parishes of the Diocese so we can journey together in faith and missionary discipleship.
Thank you for walking with us throughout the year with Faith in Our Future. Until our next blog, we wish you, your families and friends, communities and groups a grace-filled Advent, filled with expectation of the Good News that arrives in Christ.
With every blessing,
Director, Pastoral Planning Office