As Teresa, Zach and I sat around in our cosy little office on Monday morning, bleary eyed, yawning and mostly ready for the week ahead…
Ok side note:
I was probably the only one bleary eyed and yawning. My wife and I have been experiencing the joys of sleepless nights as our 7 month old son Oscar, plays his favourite game.
In my mind he calls the game “who’s it gunna be”? As far is as can tell the “rules”, and I use that term loosely, are pretty simple. Oscar cries and waits to find out who’s going to “win” by coming to comfort him next? Meanwhile, mummy and daddy are in bed playing rock paper scissors to see who is going to lose by having to go and comfort him next. I think that particular night I lost more times than I won.
… Anyway back to the cosy little office. As we started to discuss what stood out to us from the first chapter of Divine Renovation, the concept of identity or lack thereof, in our church dominated most of our conversation. Here are a few of my own reflections based on this question of identity.
Who am I?
“Who am I?” It is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. Asking and answering this question is the key to growth and development. When we actually seek to live out our identity the whole world becomes a better place. Or as St Irenaeus puts it “The glory of God is man fully alive”
Why does the Church exist?
As a Church we need to ask ourselves these same identity questions. Who are we? What is our purpose as a church? Why do we exist?
If we have never reflected on this question it almost doesn’t even make sense to us. The Church seems so big with so many parts doing so many different things, could we really reduce it down to just one purpose?
Fr James points out that Jesus gave us the great commission. His last words to his disciples before His ascension into heaven was “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
This means that all of our activities, all of our ministries, all of our outreach and social justice programs, everything we do as a Church needs to serve this end. Our purpose and our identity is to make disciples of all nations. To make followers of Christ.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Are we making disciples?
When we look around our parish or our faith community is this purpose obvious? Can we clearly see that the Church is working towards this goal? If we ask ourselves why we go to Mass? Is our answer “so I can make disciples”? Unfortunately, it is not always obvious that making disciples is what we are about.
A disciple is someone who has a hunger to learn about, to understand and to follow Jesus. Many people believe in Jesus but mere belief seems to be where it ends for some of us.
The end game of making disciples is not so people believe in Jesus. It is to have a yearning for Him, a hunger to know and to love Him more, to seek Him the way we would seek air if we were underwater. Can we really say that we experience that level of hunger in our faith?
Who are we?
The identity of the Church is wrapped up in making disciples. But to make disciples we must first become disciples, acquiring this hunger ourselves and then finding new ways to present the eternal truths of Gospel of Jesus Christ that make sense in people’s lives today.
The identity of the Church is wrapped up in making disciples
I think about the impact that we as a Church could have on our world if we truly knew who we are and what our purpose is. If we could recapture that sense of identity and allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit to live out our identity to the fullest, we would see, like Divine Renovation’s author Fr James Mallon has, a renewal in our parishes and in our faith communities.
Jeremy is the parish support officer for youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He is married and has an 8 month old son. Jeremy is passionate about promoting the dignity of the family and the human person.