This Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 14:23-29) announces the coming of the Holy Spirit. Emboldened by the Spirit, we have the courage to venture out in new directions. The society in which we live has not only radically changed but is also continuously changing. We must carry out our mission in new and uncharted territory.
The history of the Church is also a chronicle of significant changes. From the early Christian centuries up to now, the Church has faced a variety of challenges: outreach to unbelievers, dialogue with Greek philosophy, transition to official status under Charlemagne, confronting the Reformation, encountering the Enlightenment, modern times, etc. During each development, Christians needed to rethink their way of doing things, their way of offering a witness to the world.
The time in which we currently live also requires a rethinking of the different ways we witness as the Church. More than ever, our efforts must reflect a missionary dimension. What does this mean? Here is some food for thought:
• The way we receive people who seek a particular “service” from the Church, however attentive we may be, requires a new approach. We must discern the reasons for the request, understand the context in which they make their request and adapt our response accordingly. We should not hesitate to propose other ways of proceeding and other processes to accommodate their request.
• We must offer more places where people are able to raise questions and share preoccupations of concern to them. We must be present when people pose questions. People must have access to the wealth of spiritual experience available through the Church. And let’s not forget that we are not the masters of this mission. The Holy Spirit precedes us and sometimes leads us in unexpected ways!
• The contribution of Catholics to social and community development in civil society reveals another dimension of the Church in action. Let’s not forget that we are called to assist in building the Kingdom. It means we must be active on the “work site,” in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, with those who are Catholic and those of other religious traditions.
• A concrete example: Mother’s Day will be celebrated next Sunday. We must recognize the difficulties facing motherhood today and accompany the women who accept the responsibility of bearing new life. Our missionary work involves listening to, “being with” and offering places of mutual aid and support for parents and for those enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
With confidence and understanding, let us dare to propose Jesus Christ today: confident in the Holy Spirit who dwells in our world and fully aware of the complexities of life in our time.
† Jean-Claude Turcotte
Archbishop of Montréal