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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | The lesson of continuity and change is a great theme in salvation history

As we have done in other areas of our lives, we need to shift how we organize some aspects of our faith life

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

One of the outstanding features of this week’s reading (the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time) is its parables.

Jesus tells the parable of the landowner who hired workers for his vineyard at different times of day but paid them all the same wage.

Jesus also tells the parable of the king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and all of the invitees refused to come.

Ezekiel tells the parable of the dry bones coming back together and coming back to life.

It makes me think of parables for the All Things New pastoral planning process.

Imagine a business owner who continued to pour resources into maintaining a Blockbuster Video store, despite the rise of movie streaming platforms.

Imagine a town that continued to pour resources into maintaining a pay phone on every square block, despite the prevalence of cell phones in the community.

Imagine an electronics store pouring resources into keeping enough vacuum tubes for television repair, or an enormous supply of “rabbit ear” antennae, despite the shift to flat-screen TVs and the prevalence of cable television among its customers.

Note well: movies, phones and televisions remain prominent parts of people’s experience. But how we think of them, buy them and use them has shifted dramatically — and the organization of community and business life has shifted accordingly.

Similarly, the faith itself will not change through the All Things New process. We won’t be “modernizing” the liturgy, for example. There will still be priests, bishops and deacons. The sacraments will remain what they have been.

But the way we pour resources into buildings and some organizational structures has fallen out of date and has to change. We’ve shifted how we organize so many other areas of our lives — and done so happily. We need to shift how we organize some aspects of our faith life as well — and I believe we can do so fruitfully.

We celebrate the feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15. One of the great biblical themes of the feast is “the ark of the covenant.”

At first, the ark is a particular thing; it holds the Ten Commandments and some of the manna from the Israelites’ experience in the desert. The ark both symbolizes and manifests the presence of God among Israel.

Then the ark becomes a particular person — Mary. When the Word takes flesh in her, she becomes the one who carries the presence of God within herself and among the people.

Finally, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, each one of us is a potential ark because God becomes present amid his people through us.

God has always been, and will continue to be, present among His people. But there has always been continuity and change in how God is present. The lesson of continuity and change is a great theme in salvation history. It’s also a great parable for thinking about what we are experiencing with All Things New.

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