Spring Pastoral Reflection 2017

What’s the favorite part about the work you do? For me it is Wednesday nights when I moderate the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) class. It’s our weekly meeting at Saint Andrew for individuals who are seeking to become Catholic. Participants are usually individuals who belong to some denomination of Christianity and now want to be brought into full communion with the Church or they were not previously part of a Christian tradition and now seek to be baptized.

Either way, it is the best part of my week to spend time with them, hear their stories, engage with them in their questions, and see how the light of faith is illuminating their path through life. So often, as a pastoral worker, I am invited to “teach” about the Catholic faith to individuals who are being “forced” to take a class on Catholic teaching, usually by parents or perhaps they are pursuing things out of some sullen sense of guilt. But on Wednesday nights, it’s all about addressing individuals who want to be there. (By the way, we welcome others who want to come and refresh their understandings of Catholic spirituality and teaching or feel they have new questions to ask).

So it makes me a little sad that in a little over a month or so, those meetings will become more infrequent. During our RCIA classes, we become a small community who come to know each other’s stories and begin to pray and care for one another’s experience. But the reason why the group will be slowing down is because many of the members of the group will reach the culmination for which they started the classes. As adults, they will enter the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation.

(Their public witness will take place at the Easter Vigil on April 15, 2017 at 8:00pm if you would care to join us for the ceremony, you are cordially invited. It is quite a remarkable experience.)

I find their decision to formalize their initiation into the Church something like a “Springtime.” It helps that on April 15, it will literally be Springtime. The timing is a sort of convenience that amplifies the metaphor, but even if it were the middle of Winter, their very choice would resonate the same. It would break through the cold isolation of doubt and would harbor the hope of Spring.

When browsing across the spectrum of society, there is so much that derides faith and hope. To be sure, I am a big believer in the concept of “God in the world,” so I don’t really enjoy bashing secularism per se, but there is something lethargic about a world whose meaning is rooted outside of God. When money and crime and politics and power become the currency of society, there is a deep void that lulls us into a silent trauma. Even more tragic is when churches, temples, mosques, and anyone associated with matters of faith are found to be corrupted, perverted, or disordered.

Where can we find hope? Where can there be a singular reason to rise above despair? For me, I find it on Wednesday nights and the individuals who are choosing to become Catholic. It’s not that they have everything figured out. They don’t (nor do I for that matter). It’s not that I can tell you they will suddenly be the next candidates to be canonized a saint. I’m aware of their humanness (and mine too).

But in a single simple, beautiful and bold action, they are standing against the night of a faith-less and sometimes heartless world. Their “yes” to accepting God’s grace in their lives is like a sudden shaft of light in a dim room or a shoot from a flower pushing out of the ground on a spring day, now new to the familiarity of warmth.

Perhaps I’ve intrigued you enough to be curious. Perhaps you might feel a stirring desire to catch of glimpse of the proceedings. Perhaps you will receive just as much self-affirmation by connecting with them to tell them “Congratulations!” or affirming their courage. At the very least, I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them.

But be careful when you do so, because their energy is contagious and it might just cause you to ask some questions of yourself. “Are you satisfied with your relationship with God?” “Where do you find God’s hope emergent in your life?” “If you had the choice to renew your faith, would you?”

It’s time for Spring. Not only in the physical world, but in our spiritual world as well. We don’t welcome a false religion that seeks to mimic faith but is dull and base but rather we welcome an ardent faith that renews and livens.

Seek out that Spring, and let it occupy your mind and heart, for the Winter is nearly ended, and it is time for new hope. It is time for the Resurrection, first known to us through Jesus Christ.

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