Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Is Important?

"Yet the solution of the pastoral problems that arise in the diocese must not be limited to organizational matters, however important these may be. There is a risk of putting the accent on the quest for efficiency, with a sort of “bureaucracy of pastoral work”, focusing on structures, organization and programs. These can become “self-referential” for the exclusive use of the members of these structures and will then have little impact on the life of Christians who have drifted away from regular practice. Evangelization, on the contrary, needs to start from the encounter with the Lord in a dialogue founded on prayer. It must then focus on the witness we must bear in order to help our contemporaries to recognize and rediscover signs of God’s presence." These are the words of Pope Benedict to the French bishops on their Ad Limina visit to the Vatican.

An article written for priests does not use the words of the pope but says we are too often sidetracked by accidentals and fail to face situations with Gospel values.  And accountability is often easily passed over. We do not make effort to critique our work with an honest appraisal in order to do it better the next time.

An example of being caught up in accidentals was given in the article:  a parish event was recently held after a great deal of time and expense went into its preparation, in anticipation for a traditional game Koreans play around New Year's day. They have had the event for many years but there was never a review of the event: an examination or evaluation of the results. What did the Christians think about the money raised and the way it was raised? Was the event worth the money and effort? Was the community better for it?

The temptation is not wanting to face the issue squarely because we may hear what we don't want to hear. The priest writing the article does not want the persons responsible for the preparation and execution of  the event doing the evaluation, for their participation in the event will make it difficult for them to be impartial evaluators.

The example he gives is rather insignificant but in many of our pastoral works, the Gospel values and God-given common sense is far from realized in what we do. We fear to know the truth in many cases and prefer to do what we have always done in the way it was always done.

Jesus spoke a great deal about God's kingdom and worked for its realization. It's not a localized space nor something we can see, but God's love, truth, justice and peace: a movement that begins in us and spreads to all of society. This was the nature of the work that brought Jesus to the cross.

This is the work Christians are called to do, but we get bogged down with the accidentals, the structures, programs, buildings and their upkeep, and forget what our  main concern should be: bringing people closer to Jesus