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For all that will be in our community, we say “yes!”

Susan Rutkowski
August 12, 2022

As a Social Justice minister, it always takes me aback when I read Jesus’ words in this week’s gospel: “Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  Huh?  Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace?  Well, yes, but he sometimes uses shocking overstatements to convey a truth.  This surprising statement only makes sense in the context of understanding how passionate Jesus was about his ministry and his mission to save us.   Leave everything behind, even turn against family members if necessary and partake of this mission that will set the earth on fire!  Yes, it may cause division, but this fire of great desire in Jesus’ heart is key to building the reign of God.  I think this idea resonates with many of us here at the Paulist Center.

Ultimately, this gospel passage begs the question: am I a lukewarm follower of Jesus or do I somehow share his passion in building and spreading the reign of God?  As the priesthood of the baptized, each of us is to work to set the earth on fire! One of the most important ways our community does this, of course, is to work for justice.  This community is impressively justice-minded!  But there are other ways to build the reign of God with passion.  Being Church together – being part of a church community – brings with it a number of important responsibilities and expectations.

As we plan for our fall programs and consider just how many catechists we need for religious education and our sacramental preparation programs, I get overwhelmed.  Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is trying to transform my mindset of “getting volunteers.” Does the terminology of volunteer even apply to the church?  There are lots of good-hearted people who have opted to volunteer their time and resources for many good causes.  However, the church is not an organization who needs volunteers; rather, it is an assembly of believers who have been called, gifted, and commissioned to serve God.  Serving is part of the spiritual growth and discipling process within the Body of Christ.  Ideally all members of the church would be in the process of both discipling others and being discipled. This follows the model and command that Jesus gave his disciples.  That is our purpose.

So how do we each identify our spiritual gifts so we can best serve our community?  A spiritual gift is a God-given talent or ability given to individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit that allows each of us to express our faith – through words or deeds – and to strengthen the faith of others. Ask others what they think your gifts are, pray about it, don’t be afraid to branch out, and consider ways you work with and help others.  Through gifting and sensing God’s nudges, we embrace our roles as true disciples giving meaning to our ministries and igniting the joy of knowing we have been chosen by God.

Do you have gifts that would fit with creating a culture of purposeful, passionate, and proactive people of God who are united around a common vision of teaching the children of our community about the rich nature (and challenges) of what it means to be a Catholic?  I could name twenty right now!  Join us in the privilege of nurturing the next generation of Catholics here at the Center.  Or, if teaching is not your gift, how else is God calling you to serve the Paulist Center Community?

I invite you to read this beautiful reflection by Anne Daly.  It so eloquently uses imagery from nature to illustrate how significant each of our contributions are to the life and strength of a church community.  All contribute, nothing is ever lost and we all benefit from having the strength of secure roots that are constantly being nourished by believers who passionately practice their faith.  For all that will be in our community, we say “yes!”

Our Communityadapted from Anne Daly

I want you to imagine in front of you a most wonderful tree.
This tree represents our community.  From its trunk we can tell its age.
Over the years it has weathered many a storm, including recent times.
Many branches are strong and sturdy, some are worse for wear.
Others are young and are braving the elements.

Each branch represents an area of our parish and of our belief system.
Take a moment to become aware of this tree
and the many different areas in our parish that it symbolizes.
Many branches are obvious.  Others are tucked away from sight,
but all contribute to the overall grandeur of the tree.
You may wish to stand back from it and admire it
or you may wish to sit under it with your back to the trunk
and feel the massive support therein.

You may find as you look at this tree, its branches, its leaves,
that some of the leaves have withered and turned brown.
There are signs that from time to time branches have fallen off.
Over time many branches have grown old and decayed
and have fallen to the base of the tree.  Others have been cut off.
These leaves and branches, though decayed and rotten,
have replenished the earth and nourished the roots of the tree.

Become aware of the strength that comes with having secure roots
that are constantly being nourished.  Nothing is ever lost.
Every idea our community has had, whether used or discarded,
has led to where we are today and to who we are today.
Many ideas have blown in on the wind.
Some have remained.
Others have been blown around elsewhere, only to be
replenished and recycled and to come back stronger than ever.

Each branch represents some aspect of community life.
Some are very strong and support smaller branches and leaves.
But all the branches are needed to give this community its identity
and to support and comfort all who come within its compass.
This tree has room for us all.  All of our ideas and needs
will hopefully find support and nourishment here.

The firm trunk represents our faith, which is deeply rooted
in our belief in Jesus Christ and in the scriptures –
The Good News which gives us depth,
and the nourishment and support that we need.
Each new branch and leaf that appears shows our learning,
our growth and our faith development.

Over the years the shape of the tree has changed.
It will need to continue to change,
to suit the environment and the needs of the day.
It will need to be pruned and fed, so that it continues to provide
the best nourishment and support for those who depend on it.

Similarly, as a community we too will need to change.
We need to be open to new ideas and viewpoints that are
different from our own, in order to keep alive and productive
the great gift of faith and community that we have here.