As I hope you know, Archbishop Vigneron wrote a Pastoral Letter entitled Unleash the Gospel, released last June. The letter is the result of an Archdiocesan consultation process called Synod 16. The purpose of the Synod was to discern “what will make the Church in southeast Michigan a joyful band of missionary disciples.” The Synod, he wrote, “was the ignition spark that is to set the Archdiocese ablaze. Its goal was nothing less than a radical overhaul of the Church in Detroit, a complete reversal of our focus from an inward, maintenance-focused church, to an outward, mission focused church.” Wow! Archbishop Vigneron has asked all parishes to study this document and discern how it can be implemented in each parish. Our evangelization committee is working on this task, and you can look for more information very soon.
Today’s gospel offers us a paradigm for how we might do this, and much food for thought. John the Baptist, standing with two of his disciples, sees Jesus and acknowledges to them that Jesus is the “Lamb of God.” The disciples leave John and begin to follow Jesus. Jesus invites these disciples to “come and see,” and to stay with him that day, learning about the Kingdom from him. One of John’s disciples, Andrew, then goes and tells his brother Simon Peter about his experience with Jesus. Andrew brings Simon to Jesus and Simon the fisherman is “hooked.” (Pun intended!) In the encounter with Jesus he is transformed, symbolized by the new name he is given, Peter, or the “rock,” (Rocky?) because he will become the leader and the foundation of the Twelve. The encounter with Jesus must have been so significant that Andrew and Simon and the other unnamed disciple were willing to change the whole direction of their lives. No doubt in some fashion their hearts were set “ablaze.”
If we are to “Unleash the Gospel” and become a (more) joyful missionary band of disciples, focused outward, on our mission, what better role models can we have? Can we share our experience of Jesus with someone? Can we bring someone to encounter Jesus? Can we invite someone to “come and see?” Maybe even a family member who has stopped going to church? Perhaps Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith or others who are seeking a spiritual home? Can we provide a place where God can do that significant work of transformation? If we can set this parish (more) “ablaze” with faith filled warmth, hospitality, and community, perhaps (more) people will want to come and see what is going on here and join us in following the Lord! You notice that I added the word “more” several times. There is so much faith, goodness, and generosity here at the Church of the Transfiguration! We are a joyful band of missionary disciples. But we can always “kindle the flame” and welcome others and grow; we can invite others to share what we have experienced and God will do the rest!