Throughout time as we know it, God has been with us, acting in love as one. God is creator of the universe and all that exists. We know He loves so deeply that He took on our flesh, making His love present in death and resurrection. We know God as our advocate, our counselor, our guide and our teacher.
Since we recently celebrated the feast of Pentecost and celebrate this weekend the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Church reminds us of the One in whose name we are sent in mission to the world. The one God, living and true, calls us out of darkness into wonderful light. He remains faithful to us no matter what and expresses that faithfulness in abundant life and free-flowing mercy. We call Him down upon the gifts on our altars and upon each of us as we discern His will.
If you are reading this from somewhere within the Archdiocese of St. Louis, you know that we are being asked to do something that will have great blessings for the future but also will be difficult. We are being asked to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we examine the present status of the Church in St. Louis and how the Word of God could be more effectively spread. So much of what we do is based in individual parishes, agencies or institutions. We tend to become possessive of those ministries as if they were ours. There is good reason for that; we pour our hearts and lives into these communities of faith and service. We choose to sacrifice for the sake of a mission that we believe in, and it becomes very personal. We often find blessings, peace and hope in the work to which the Spirit calls us. Now, we are being asked to be obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not hard-hearted or stiff-necked. This is a difficult task unless we assure ourselves that the God who created the world is leading us if we’re honest and obedient.
This might be a good time in the process of the All Things New strategic pastoral planning initiative to notice any tendencies we have toward cynicism, stubbornness, digging in our heels or any sense of false hospitality. It is always easy to be hospitable when we think our current situation won’t be changed. What will it take for us to be truly obedient to the Holy Spirit, wherever that Spirit takes us? What will it take for us to put everything on the line for the greatest possibility of the Word of God being preached and lived effectively to all the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis? What change of mind and heart do we need as individuals? Have we even engaged in the process yet?
So many of the generations that came before us displayed great courage and even greater trust in God. Many of them left everything to form a new and free life in Christ. Some of them mortgaged homes and farms so the churches could be built. For many of them, the parish became the place where they learned a new language, practiced new customs and found their place in the growing Catholic Church in the United States.
How can we use this invitation for prayer and discernment to make the Church even greater in its unity and mission? Some of those who came against their will, those enslaved by others, were part of building the parishes in our archdiocese. Their enslaved labor and the sweat of their brows made the bricks and dug the foundations at the same time that they were forced to pass by white churches. What will we do at this important time so that those wounds can continue to be healed and our African-American brothers and sisters might be included as full partners in the Church in the archdiocese? There are other groups wounded by our past sins. Some were here before us, and we took their land. Some were imprisoned during wars simply because of their ancestry and not their citizenship. We continue to this very day to exclude some from the way that we spread the Gospel. Now is the time to employ the richest grace that God gives us to be all that we can be and function humbly as the people of God in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.