The season of Lent calls the whole Church to conversion, to a deeper and dedicated relationship to Christ and our neighbour.
This weekend we will hear the Gospel of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus claims the right of kings as he arrives on a colt and fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 (‘Behold your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey’). The disciples enthrone the colt with garments while the people exclaim ‘The Kingdom of our father David is coming’. Here arrives the Messiah in the line of David.
As disciples we are called to go wherever the Master goes and to build up the Church and the world in the way of Jesus. This way, as demonstrated by Jesus in the Passion Sunday account, is not a reign of power and privilege, of accumulation and domination, but a kingship of service and gift, of humility and embrace. Jesus arrives not on a horse as a Roman soldier would do but on a colt, a young donkey or mule associated with the toil of the poor. He enters Jerusalem not with military might but with the witness he bears to the Father’s love.
This past weekend parish pastoral council members and parish leaders from across our Diocese came together for a day of formation and to discuss the ways in which we might make Jesus’ Kingdom vision a reality in our own communities of faith. This session was also offered a fortnight earlier at St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, as part of our diocesan commitment to decentralise some of our services in order to make them more accessible for those at the western end of the Diocese.
All together some seventy lay men and women participated in this formation which reflected on the leadership of Pope Francis, raised awareness of the capacity to influence communities in collaboration with our priests, and discussed the challenges and promise of their local parish as centres of holiness and evangelisation, where growth in faith and its sharing are the foundations of all that the Church prays for and works towards.
Facilitated by our Pastoral Planning Office together with Catholic Mission, partners of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, participants raised key opportunities for growth that could apply to all of our parishes. This included the need to nurture discipleship which is the foundation of all that the Church is and does. A personal and dedicated relationship to Jesus Christ is the perennial basis of the Church’s offering to the world, an offering that is manifest in disciples who are committed to the way of Jesus, who speak of and enter into his life, death and resurrection, and who in his Spirit engage the world with conviction and creativity.
Planning in our parishes is critical but serves only the faith and discipleship of the community in which it takes place. Without the nourishment of holiness and discipleship among our people, even the best made plans will fall short. As Pope Francis has witnessed in his own life, the deepest motivation for Catholics to serve through ministry, to contribute their gifts to the community of faith, to ‘go out’ in mission in the wider community is a personal encounter with God in Christ who has loved us first.
These past weekends have been a testament to the determination and passion of our people for the Gospel, for the Good News we have received and are invited to live. As we approach the central mysteries of our faith this Easter, may we continue to enter into the story of Jesus Christ, a story of faithfulness in the midst of uncertainty, humility in the midst of power, and of a cross-shaped love that bears new life for all those who are open to its gift.
With blessings and joy,
Director, Pastoral Planning Office