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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | We delight in being recognized and known

This delight can also be one small way that we can shape how we approach the Eucharist and parish life

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago we held the SEEK24 conference in downtown St. Louis. Almost 20,000 people — mostly young adults — came to grow in both following and proclaiming Christ. It was an extraordinary experience of the vibrancy of the young Church.

As we start to think and pray and talk more deeply about parish vibrancy in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I’d like to recall something that happened repeatedly as the conference unfolded.

Any time one of the main stage speakers would mention a particular school, the students from that school would cheer wildly. They were delighted to be recognized and known.

What happened on a group level also played out over and over on an individual level. One person would recognize another and call out. You could see the joy it brought that individual to be recognized and known.

Perhaps it’s a law of human nature: We delight in being recognized and known. That law was on full display at SEEK24, and I wonder if it might help with parish vibrancy in two ways.

First: Do we approach Jesus in the Eucharist this way? My point is not that we come forward to recognize Jesus, though that’s also true and essential. My point is: Do we approach Him with the intention of letting Him recognize and know us — do we approach and receive the Eucharist with that kind of delight? “Jesus looked at me — He recognized me, He knows me, He gave Himself to me!” Do we cheer, at least internally, when this happens?

As we prepare for the National Eucharistic Congress this summer in Indianapolis and focus on the revival of our own eucharistic devotion, perhaps we could learn something from the experience of SEEK24.

Here’s a second element of how that delight pertains to parish vibrancy: Do we provide that same experience for others when they enter the parish? Do we look at them with recognition and delight and let them be delighted at being recognized? (Or, if we don’t recognize them, are we at least genuinely delighted to meet them?) That small experience could transform people’s experience of parish life.

Friends, we live in a tired world. Spirituality without religion, the (empty) promise of salvation by technology and conversations made shallow by relativism make it tired. We have an opportunity to bring a tremendous source of energy to a tired world: the delight of being recognized, known and loved by Jesus.

What if we asked ourselves, at the end of every day: What opportunities did I have today to let someone know that Jesus recognizes and delights in them? How did I do with those opportunities?

If we ask those questions every day, we might begin to make quicker and deeper responses to the opportunities that present themselves.

Does that seem small? Maybe. But Jesus tells the parable of the mustard seed this week: Though “it is the smallest of seeds, it becomes the largest of plants.” This experience of recognition and delight is a small seed we could begin to plant more deliberately and more abundantly in our daily interactions. It could make a large contribution to parish vibrancy.

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