A REFLECTION ON RENEWAL IN THE IRISH CHURCH 2
Without strong preparation of prayer, fasting, and openness to the Holy Spirit, no sacred space of faith will be created, and there will be no genuine dialogue to enable the Spirit of God to renew the faith community by creating new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms that bring about new decisions, leading to renewed life. I believe very strongly that the seeds of faith are there in each and every person whether they are attending Church or not each Sunday. I also believe that we need to get out there and promote the message of the Joy of the Gospel and its great mercy.
The time for inaction is over and the time for constructive action with lasting results has arrived. Pope Francis in the Joy of the Gospel tells us: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. At our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (49).
We in Ireland at this time are that bruised and hurting Church for many reasons and as such we need to begin moving away from being confined to ourselves looking inwards staying in our own circles. We need to move away from clinging to our own security to looking outwards in order to bring the joy of the Gospel to all those we meet. The question to be asked here is this are we the members of the church at the present time lay religious and clergy giving the countless others whose faith is wavering or non-existent food for the journey, the journey of faith?
We need to speak frankly and openly with each other Seeking God’s will in our strengths and weaknesses and not be afraid of the message we have to share. I firmly believe that faith is really all about people and their personal journeys of faith and that includes you and me. We need to renew the faith community by creating new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms relating to faith and all of these will lead to renewed life. We need to reaffirm what we ourselves believe in so that we will inspire others to begin or continue their faith journeys. With a strong preparation of prayer, fasting, and openness to the Holy Spirit, a great sacred space of faith will be created it is a long journey that we need to embark on but a worthwhile journey none the less.
Pope Francis puts it well in the Joy of the Gospel when he says to us:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (Pope Paul VI). The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18,2) has given us his example… Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders (Lk 15,5). No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.
As a matter of fact we have to constantly renew ourselves and in the same way the Church should be always renewing herself on an ongoing basis at personal, local, national and international levels. Renewal should not come as a result of scandal renewal should be engrained in the culture of faith and religion. So that we may tackle any of the problems of the day head on and not be afraid of what might happen. We need to begin to be a praying people both as community and individuals praying that the will of God will come, thy kingdom come thy will be done at the our Father puts it.
In his 2014 message for Lent Pope Francis says that The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion. As we look at the implications of the marriage referendum as a Church let us commit ourselves anew to the cause of renewal. The renewal of the church that GOD WANTS not the renewal that some within the Church want. If we are truly open to god we will pray and then act.
We cannot discount the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make the right thing happen in the right time and place. As I said above some within the Church want their version of renewal which may well be a going back to the future, if we do go back let us remember that the Church did not begin with the Gold, Silver or Magnificent Vestments. We cannot forget that Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem. The Last Supper was in the upper room, Jesus washed his disciples feet there was no Gold on the Cross of Good Friday only the nails and the wood of the Cross.