Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is with some excitement — and also some trepidation! — that we launched the “All Things New” website on Jan. 25: allthingsnew.archstl.org.
Underneath the excitement and trepidation, though, is a sense of peace. Pastoral planning isn’t easy. But I think we’re doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.
Our planning process involves several dimensions: evangelization, stewardship, prayer and hospitality. But the first step will focus on listening: listening to each other and listening to the Lord. We need to do some reorganizing. But if we’re going to do it well, it has to be rooted in prayer, and we have to do it together.
We celebrate the Feast of the Presentation this week (Feb. 2), commemorating when Jesus was presented in the Temple shortly after His birth. There’s an option that day, still observed in some places, to have a procession with candles at Mass. The procession of light is meant to be a symbolic repetition of Mary’s journey. Jesus is the light of the world. Mary carried that light in procession up to the Temple in Jerusalem for a high and important occasion. Then she carried the light in procession back to Nazareth, to the mundane tasks of everyday life.
We’re meant to imitate both parts of that journey. But how do we turn the symbolic reality — the procession with lights — into a practical reality? The readings for the week give us some good ideas.
The first comes from the episode of the healing of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5. The episode closes by saying, “Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis (his home region) what Jesus had done for him.”
That’s a procession with light! Jesus has done things for each of us. We can carry that light in procession to the high occasion of Mass, which is great. But we also need to carry that light in procession back into our everyday life, as well. It doesn’t need to be flashy. Nazareth wasn’t flashy! But when we tell people what Jesus has done for us, we carry His light into the darkness of the world. The world needs that light!
The second comes from the readings about David that we have all week, ending with a summary of his life. One of the lessons we learn from David’s life is that the light of God’s grace is not only about the high moments in our lives. David was a great warrior king; he was also a great sinner! But David received God’s mercy precisely in the places where he sinned, and he told of receiving that mercy.
That’s a procession with light! Many people believe that God blesses them only in their strengths; they have a hard time believing that God can have mercy on them in their weaknesses. That’s a place where the world needs to see our procession of light. When we tell people how God has had mercy on our weakness, we carry His light into the darkness of the world. The world needs that light!
As we launch the All Things New website, and intensify the process of pastoral planning in the coming months, the Feast of the Presentation can serving as a guiding light for us. Any reorganization that we contemplate will keep its eye on this task: helping us carry the light of Jesus into the darkness of the world.