Inspire youth back to our communities

a word from bishop les 2 350pxIn this very special first week of April, we walk with Jesus through his death and resurrection.

Once more we experience the fact that God so loves us that he gave his Son for our salvation.

Pope Francis explains: ‘In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all of us. ‘The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s Word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith, which works through love’. (Pope’s message for Lent 2015).

We know that Pope Francis is concerned about the ‘globalisation of indifference’ and he has called on those in consecrated lives to ‘wake up the world’. Surely 2015 is a time when all Catholics should work on renewal of our hearts and minds.

In Australia, we have great examples of parish renewal within the complex and challenging culture in which they take place, and I am sure that, in this diocese, we can say the same.  

But we also have parishes in our country and elsewhere, where little is happening and things are kept just ‘ticking over’.  

Perhaps there are parishes that remain trapped in a past, which has long since ceased to exist. If we were to look at one word which would be vital to me in discerning what sets a parish on the road to renewal, that word would be ‘community’.

We need to develop a true sense of community in the Catholic Church today and move away from a Catholicism that was very much individualistic. Where piety becomes individualistic it runs the risk of becoming somehow magical or external or it runs the risk of being totally subjective.

But Christianity is not just a religion about individuals. The sacramental life of the Church is always the celebration of a community. Perhaps we still have to recognise that in our practices.
The entire sacramental practice in our parishes has to be seen as something which takes place within the framework of a worshipping community and which leads to the Eucharist as the central element in our communion with Christ and with one another.

The future of our Church will depend not just on individuals, bishop or priests or charismatic laymen and women, but also on new and robust communities of faith and worship.   We urgently need faith communities that embrace our young people.

The incarnation of Christ: God becoming one of us will always find its deepest roots in the local situation. Jesus lived at a particular time; he walked on specific lands; he encountered actual people; he died and rose from the dead at a moment in history.

Our incarnate God likes to do things personally and this is why parish life is such a vital and essential dimension to every diocese.

A parish is a family of families, giving shape and flesh to the presence of Christ in a local place.
The message of Jesus Christ is a message which must combine idealism, conviction and vision, alongside mercy and compassion and support for the weakest.  

Is that the image of the Church, which we are presenting today, especially to our young people? Or do we still come across as a negative Church?  Do we come across perhaps as a Church on the retreat; timid in presenting our vision for fear that we may be unpopular?

In a polarised society, where different cultures experience difficulty in living alongside one another, where the powerless encounter oppression, where inequality abounds, we are called to offer a concrete model of community.

The Year of Consecrated Life this year coincides with the Synod on the Family. Family life and consecrated life are both vocations, which bring enrichment and blessings for all.

They are spaces where human growth comes about through relationships, and they are also places of evangelisation. Each can help the other; and each can work towards the building of community in our parishes.

By the transformative power of Jesus’ resurrection, first available to us in baptism but offered to us throughout our lives, we don’t have to be people who are selfishly focussed on our own comfort, wealth, or position. Instead, we can become people who are willing to forgive, who are understanding and who are attentive to others’ needs.

We don’t have to be people who have no interest in religion, who sit back and let others take care of their parish, who maybe even doubt the love that God has for them.

Instead, we can become people who value our faith, who take an active role in building up our parish communities, who see the signs of God’s love that are all around them.

As Jesus rose to live a new life, we can rise to live a new life. If we choose to use it, the power of Jesus’ resurrection can make each one of us the person God intends for you and me to be.


- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, October, 2015