I would like to pose a question for reflection – “Do you belong to your parish or does your parish belong to you?”
For the latter, what do you expect from your parish? Do you only go to your parish when you are looking for something for yourself? For instance, do you see your parish simply as a place where you go for the important sacramental moments like Baptism. Or when you are dying and desire the anointing of the sick and prayers for the dying? Do you only show up for funerals and weddings?
These are definitely important moments. The Sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131). We need the Sacraments because we need grace. It is good to come for the Sacraments. Yet there is more to what it means to belong to the church than just receiving Sacraments.
What else do you seek from your parish? Do you come to Mass on Sunday seeking to “feel good” for one hour? Are you looking for music that makes you feel good in a superficial way or that truly brings you closer to God? The same can be said about the preaching, even for the whole Mass. Mass should help us to feel good but not simply in a superficial way but in how it connects us to God’s Word and what we celebrate in the Eucharist.
What else do people come to church seeking? Some come seeking help with physical needs. They come looking for food, clothing, or rent money. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus calls us to the Corporal Works of Mercy to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirst, and more. We need to help people when we can with their physical needs. This is part of what it means to love our neighbor.
However, church is more than just caring for people’s physical needs. We are also called to help people in their spiritual needs. This includes the Sacraments as I mentioned before. It can also include a compassionate visit (Corporal Work of Mercy – to visit the sick). It might be to follow the example of Veronica in the sixth Station of the Cross when she wipes the face of Jesus.
Returning to my original question, “Do you belong to your parish or does your parish belong to you?”, in the latter I am asking if you see your parish simply as a place you go to when you need something. Again, our parish should help us in whatever way it can but a parish is more than a charitable organization.
Please note that I said a parish should help its parishioners in whatever way it can. What about when it can’t?
This is where we can move from my question of “does your parish belong to you” to “do you belong to your parish.” If we only see our parish as a place we go in order to have our own needs met, then perhaps we see our parish as belonging to us.
When you look at ways in which your parish is not able to serve the needs of the people, you might ask yourself if there is something God is calling you to do to help. In looking at it this way, one begins to see themselves as belonging to the parish. To belong is not just what the parish does for you. It includes what you can do for your parish to help it fulfill its mission.
Are you called to be a good steward in giving of your time? It might be as simple as helping to clean the church to help it be germ free. Even pulling weeds in the garden can help make the parish beautiful on the outside to draw people inside.
As parishioners and good stewards we are called to use the talents God has given us to help our parish be Christ to the world. It can be in the way we live in accord with our faith. It can be in helping in ways that people never see like counting the collection to help the parish use its resources well.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, we show our care for others in simple ways like wearing a mask to protect each other.
We can be good stewards in sharing our treasure to build up the Kingdom of God.
There are various ways we can contribute to the mission of our parish when we choose to belong to it. It is more than just doing things for others. It is be there for others. It is to form a relationship with one another as well as good so that we are a community of believers.
When we belong to our parish, it is not just something we do for an hour on Sunday. It is part of who we are. Our faith shapes the way we live our lives. May we always follow Jesus as the way and truth and the life.