Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Starting this week, and for the rest of Lent, as part of our pastoral planning process, I’m asking as many people as possible to fill out the Disciple Maker Index survey. You can find it on the All Things New website at allthingsnew.archstl.org under the “Ways to Engage” tab.
The survey will take most people 10-15 minutes to fill out. It provides some categories that will help us be honest with ourselves about our life of faith, and some categories that will help us be honest about our parishes and how they’re doing in helping us to live a life of faith. I’m asking as many people as possible to take it because the combination of quantitative and qualitative input that we receive from the survey will help to shape the pastoral planning conversation we’re having.
Let me be clear: The data from the survey will not replace that conversation! The conversation will continue, especially through all the parish listening sessions that will take place in at parishes across the archdiocese in October and November 2022. But the results of the survey will provide a snapshot of where we are, both individually and as a community. Any exercise plan needs to start with a realistic sense of where a person is. Likewise, a pastoral plan needs to start with a realistic sense of where we are. And “where we are” is not just a financial question or a demographic question — we already have those data. It’s also a question of where our hearts and minds are. It’s important that we factor those matters of the heart into our conversation.
The readings this week give a perfect framing to this request. The first line of the first reading of the week is when God says to the Israelites: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” And the last line of the last reading of the week is when Jesus says: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s the path of discipleship — it’s the path to perfection.
Of course, most of us aren’t there yet! And so, as if to encourage us, the week is loaded with examples of imperfect disciples.
This week we hear from the prophet Isaiah. When he had the vision that started his prophetic call, he responded: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.” Most of us can share that sense of unworthiness!
This week we hear about the prophet Jonah. Our introduction to him is the following line: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” That reminds us, it had to come to him a second time, because the first time he ran away! Most of us can share that sense of needing a second chance.
This week we hear about Queen Esther. The introduction to her story tells us: “Queen Esther [was] seized with mortal anguish …” She was afraid of the role she was being asked to play in God’s plans! Most of us can sympathize with that sense of fear.
Each of them, however — Isaiah, Jonah and Esther — was invited, right in the midst of their imperfections, to make a vital contribution to God’s plans for His people. An honest sense of their imperfection didn’t stop them, and it shouldn’t stop us. Sometimes enthusiastically, and sometimes reluctantly, each of them said, “Here I am. Send me!” I hope and pray we can all do the same.