In the well known passage from Matthew 5, Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” He also informs them, “You are the light of the world,” but the light must not be put, “under a bushel basket, but rather “set on a lampstand . . .”
Why does Jesus choose plain salt to describe His people? Like Jesus’ own words, a mere pinch of salt has profound effects. Salt seasons and salt preserves. Even our blood must have just the right amount; too little and we can die. Jesus chooses salt to make his point because without it, life is tasteless, even impossible. Salt is essential. Salt is not an option.
If we are true Christians and people of faith, then we must also be people of salt and light. Jesus intends our faith to season, strengthen, and enhance the society in which we live. He also knows our faith is needed to give light for all to see the “good deeds” that glorify His Father. We all know that decreased mass attendance has become a problem in many parishes, both across our country and in our state. In our own parish this has become a concern as well. But we do not have to accept this without reacting as people of faith. We miss the presence of our fellow Catholics and pray for their return. We will continue to pray, but we must do even more.
How can we all reach out to our fellow Catholics who attend infrequently or who do not attend at all? One way is the “New Evangelization.” Why is it being called “New?” It is “new” because there is a new emphasis on each of us FIRST BEING STRONG DISCIPLES OURSELVES. We must “reach out” to ourselves as we reach out to others. We must all have faith that is robust and be willing to show it proudly. We must all believe our faith can influence others.
In this work, Francis, the Holy Father in Rome, is at our side. His recent letter, “Evangelii Gaudium,” The Joy of the Gospel, powerfully and lovingly invites all Christians to rediscover the joy of the Gospels and to reencounter Christ more fully. In it, Pope Francis states, “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.” He also addresses our fellow Catholics whose faith has lapsed. They are, in his words, the “ baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of their baptism . . . and who no longer experience the consolation born of faith.”
What does this mean for Saint Joseph parish? It means we as a parish must REFOCUS our vision on strengthening the faith of all parishioners. It means we must provide more and richer opportunities to deepen our faith. It means all Catholics must treasure and seek an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It means our parish must better teach that faith is the essential lens through which we observe and measure the world. It means our parish must better instill in us that faith is an absolute necessity, never an option.
What are some opportunities our parish has already undertaken?
- New monthly children’s liturgies and choir: Several grade levels have taken an active role in the Saturday and Sunday liturgies. At the most recent liturgy, eighteen children and youth from kindergarten through high school sang in our choir.
- The “Coffee and Goodies” gatherings following the Sunday children’s liturgy: These have been so successful, recently we ran out of goodies.
- The Upper Room prayer and discussion groups: These have seen dramatic increases in attendance and are still growing. Another group is forming to accommodate the growth.
- Eucharistic adoration on the first Monday morning of the month: This has shown steady increase. Adoration is a special opportunity to sit in Jesus’ presence and quietly listen and speak with Him.
In upcoming weeks and months, there are plans to provide even more faith growth opportunities. These will soon include for Lent Friday evening Stations of the Cross. We are also considering video presentations, family nights, bible blessings, parish retreats, and more. Suggestions and input from everyone are essential. In the coming weeks, all parishioners will be offered means to provide input. Please think about it and pray about it.
Finally, please pray for our parish and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this mission. Know that you are people of salt and of light. As such, evangelization begins with you. Accordingly, let us all strive to cherish our faith, to strengthen it continually, and to wear it nobly in our families, in our parish, and before the world.