Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Well, we’ve started the All Things New parish listening sessions. We’re also starting a series of readings from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians this week. It’s providential timing. Ephesians is St. Paul’s great letter about the Church, and it has a special focus on two things: the unity of the Church and the mission of the Church.
It makes me think of two things: listening and lighthouses!
This moment — where we are in the All Things New process — calls for a deep kind of listening.
First, we need to engage in a deep listening to each other. We need to be able to listen not only to what people are saying, but to the heart that’s speaking through their words. (As we all know, sometimes our words say exactly what’s in our hearts, and sometimes our words represent our hearts very imperfectly!) We can only foster the unity that St. Paul talks about in Ephesians, and that we need in this moment, if we listen deeply to one another’s hearts.
Second, we need to engage in an evangelical style of listening to the world. It’s an intriguing phrase, isn’t it — “an evangelical style of listening?” The new Program for Priestly Formation says that seminarians need to develop this to become good priests. What does it mean? I think it means two things: being able to hear where God is already at work in someone’s life, and being able to hear where God is wanting more for a person’s life. When we listen in such a way that we can hear both of those things, we’re ready to proclaim the Good News as both a consolation and a challenge to people.
I think we could all use some growth in that kind of listening! We can only foster the kind of mission that St. Paul talks about in Ephesians, and that the Church needs in this moment, if we learn an evangelical style of listening to the world.
As you know, I come from the East Coast. And East Coasters can tell you that the whole coast — from Florida to Maine — is dotted with historic and beautiful lighthouses.
I’m thinking of them this week because, in the Church’s Office of Readings, St. Columban talks about asking Jesus to light our lanterns, and St. Maximus the Confessor says that Jesus Himself is the lamp set upon a lampstand for all to see.
What does it mean when we say that one of the goals of All Things New is to have a Catholic presence in every square mile of the archdiocese? I think it might be helpful to think of our parishes the way we think of lighthouses. You don’t need to have a lighthouse in every square mile, because a lighthouse can send its beam of light anywhere from 10-15 miles (depending on its height).
If we think of our parishes as lighthouses, and if we think of each one of us as carrying the light of Christ into our neighborhoods and workplaces, we get a different image of what it might mean to have a Catholic presence covering every square mile of the archdiocese.
These are important days for the unity and the mission of the Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. Let’s ask Jesus to give us the gift of listening, and the gift of light.