An apostolic Church is filled with joy and hope
By Father Jim Mason
All of us are searching for purpose and meaning, and Jesus is the answer! The two pillars of humility and confidence can guide us to a deeper relationship with our Lord.
Humility means recognizing our dependence on our savior, Jesus Christ. Confidence means a boldness that is not rooted in ourselves but in Jesus, who makes all things possible. Can I live with humility, even though I am not in control of my life, my family, the future, our Church, nation and world? Can I see this current time of confusion and uncertainty as an opportunity to grow in faith, hope and love and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and his Church?
In the seminary during the Easter season, an image came to me of being in the empty tomb. I was witnessing to the resurrection of our Lord when Mary Magdalene came in and invited me to go with her and share the good news of the resurrected Lord with the apostles. I politely declined, explaining that I needed to stay in the tomb to continue to provide witness. She left.
A little later, Peter and John came into the tomb and asked me to come with them to the upper room. I declined, explaining my mission was to witness to anyone who might come by. I realized this meant I would miss Jesus in the upper room that evening, Pentecost, the ascension and all of the evangelization in the Book of Acts.
I thought I had found my ministry. I even developed a website for this ministry at www.emptytombministry.org. You see, I truly believe in the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and birth of the Church. But I thought I needed to stay in the tomb to provide that witness. Then, suddenly, the stone rolled back, and I was in the dark, by myself, and I woke up.
I realized this has been much of my priesthood—waiting for others to come to me. Ignoring the invitation by Mary Magdalene and Peter and John to go to spread the good news. You see, the cave is convenient and comfortable, but if we choose to live there, it can be deadly.
This describes much of the Catholic Church and her parishes in the West today. Unless we find a way to get out of our empty tombs, we will not survive. Part of this will mean moving from a Christendom mindset and lifestyle to the reality of living in an Apostolic Age like the early Church.
What is meant by Christendom? Christendom is economic, political and social life as inspired by Christian principles. In Christendom, because institutions are strong and well-founded, they tend to be taken for granted and therefore to lose their originating Christian spirit.
Consider the apostles just after the ascension of Christ. If they had feared their lack of resources and people in which they were to fulfill their Master’s words, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” they would have been sunk in discouragement.
But they were not discouraged. They were filled with joy and hope.
They had great confidence in their Lord, in their message, and in the creativity and fertility of the Church. They knew their task was to be used by the Holy Spirit to grow the Church, and they knew the graced means by which it was to grow. And it did.
Apostolic mode means the Church must make its way against the current of the wider society by communicating a counter-imaginative vision. Society needs a profound conversion of mind such that it sees everything differently. In an Apostolic Age, there are fewer resources and the cultural challenge of articulating faith, both individually and institutionally, can seem daunting.
The Church in these new apostolic times needs to have the same confidence in the power and goodness of the message she bears, in its life-changing potency, and its power of regeneration and growth.
People need to be convinced that Christ is the answer—the purpose and meaning of life—and the only true hope for a troubled world. They need to see and experience that obedience to the Gospel provides perfect freedom, that holiness leads to happiness, that a world without God is a desolate wasteland, and that new life in Christ transforms darkness into light. We need to witness this good news in our daily lives through our words and actions just like the Twelve Apostles.
Times are trying and also exciting.
If we are tempted to discouragement or despair, simply recall the witnesses of the early Church, knowing that God always provides the grace needed to sustain us.