Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

A shared vision of responsibility for the church

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Shortly after the event of Pentecost, Luke offers a short but powerful summary of the life of the early church. The disciples of Jesus “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). These four activities — the proclamation of the Good News, the worship of God, fellowship in the community of the church and works of service in Christ’s name — distinguished the life of the first church. The members of the community shared a common vision: the responsibility for the church belonged to each of them.

Yet Luke’s depiction of Christian life in Jerusalem is not merely a snapshot of how the church appeared at one point in time; it is a blueprint for what it means to be church as the body of Christ in all ages. In fact, it is a road map for the church to navigate the changes that come with each new era.

We are living in a time of critical importance for the life of our church and society and we need that road map in our day. The challenges we face are considerable, and the material resources we have to meet those challenges have diminished over the years.

This is what led us to initiate the Renew My Church process more than five years ago. It should be viewed not as “a corporate restructure” of the church, but rather as our moment to take up the mission of Christ with fresh energy by calling on the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit who “renews the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).

These first five years of Renew My Church have been grace-filled. We have learned a great deal, leading us to identify three core requirements, or imperatives for the renewal of our mission to be authentic and life-giving for the next generation. 

The first mission imperative is to make disciples. This is not an optional add-on for our life as Catholics. From the day Christ commissioned his followers to go into the world, making disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) has defined who we are as Christians. Pope Francis reminds us that “in virtue of their baptism, all the members of the people of God have become missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium, 120).

So, there can be no passive or part-time disciple of Christ: “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus,” as Pope Francis explains, and our encounter with Christ in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, calls us to “go” and invite others to share in Christ’s grace. In fact, the word “Mass” comes from the final words that sends or dismisses us from the Eucharist into the world.

While the call to be a disciple touches each of us personally, we do not do it alone. So our second mission imperative is to build communities — that is, to foster healthy and vibrant parishes where missionary disciples are initiated, nourished, challenged and sustained as they grow together as members of the body of Christ and are prepared to serve the mission of the church.

Finally, the communities we build are not isolated social enclaves, in which members care only about themselves. The Second Vatican Council was clear that the proper task of a Christian is to “work with everyone in building a more human world” (Gaudium et Spes 55). This means that neither our spiritual lives nor religion can be understood without social commitment. Nor can salvation be understood without the need to transform history. They are linked. Our third mission imperative, then, is to inspire witness — that is, to enkindle in our people a deep love for others that “compels us” (2 Cor 5:14) to have a heart for the lost. In the words of Pope Francis, every parish should see itself as a “field hospital.”

As we take up these three mission imperatives, we need to define the structures that will allow us to fulfill our mission in the years ahead. That is the discernment we are undertaking in Renew My Church. It is a discernment that requires the engagement of us all.

I invite you to be an active and vital part of this renewal by praying for its success, and by participating in the process for the renewal of your personal faith life and your parish. This is our moment to embrace the common vision of our ancestors in the faith: the responsibility for the church belongs to each one of us.

 

Topics:

  • renew my church

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