10 February 2019 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Call and Response
It’s a time for transition in parishes, with increasing numbers of parishes no longer with a resident priest. Words and analysis are plentiful, silver bullet solutions abide (married/female priesthood, imported clergy etc.) but actual solutions are in short supply. Dioceses engage in listening processes, organising synods and assemblies, maximising resources by clustering arrangements. All very good but it can be a shared perplexity in wondering how to support faith in turbulent times.
Many will call for an increased participation by parishioners, while some priests report that people are generally well disposed but slow to take over the wheel with strong cases of “whatever you think yourself Father” being the response to a query on what steps need to be taken. “Unloading the wagons” is a key concept from a book I enjoyed “the lost art of walking on water.” I was thinking about it as we have the Gospel irony today of the early followers of Jesus called from working on water to becoming “fishers of men” on the land. They knew the moodiness of the sea and how you needed to face the elements. Today’s gospel has empty nets made full by the Lord and brought ashore.
“Unloading the Wagons” represents the idea that priests are called to lead the “pastoral wagon” and not be overly involved in the concrete non-pastoral tasks of loading the wagons with more and more administrative tasks- good and important as they are.
There is much to be done in training people for unknown, future roles in a undoubtedly smaller Irish Church. It’s good at these times to remember that as today’s Gospel shows us- God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
They tell a story of Jesus returning to heaven on his Ascension. The welcome is great and when all settles down- Gabriel who announced it all was having a quiet word. “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.” “I did,” he said. “And,” continued Gabriel, “do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?” “Oh, no,” said Jesus, “not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.” Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love for them?” Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about me. Those who are told will in turn tell still other people, and so my story will spread. “ Gabriel frowned (he knows how frail and weak humanity is after all!) “But suppose they fail, forget or fall- what’s the Plan B?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plans. I’m counting on them.” Twenty centuries later it hasn’t changed.