During the All Parish Leaders Meeting at Shepherd of the Valley two weeks ago, the keynote speaker was Bishop Peter Smith. He talked about the challenges of doing ministry in an environment where the culture is rejecting God. Decades ago, the people of faith in the American society used to be accepted and respected, but not anymore. Some of you might have experienced from friends, at the workplace, or sometimes even from family members some form of rejection because you practice the Christian faith and that is not uncommon anymore. In fact, the most rejected or persecuted people in the world are Christians. That is the sad reality that we all live in and it is in that reality where we are to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Peter Smith said that we should be first and foremost “Witnesses of Hope”. Those people who do not have a particular faith practice and do not believe in God tend to fall into despair and hopelessness. They have nothing to look forward to, they do not have Jesus Christ to give them hope. It is our duty to witness to them the hope that faith in Jesus brings. But we cannot do that if we don’t start with ourselves. We may not all have an active ministry in our parish community but we all are one in the mission to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. Let us constantly be aware of the fact that we cannot give what we do not have – let us continue to allow the Faith to grow in our hearts and in our family. Let us especially focus on teaching our children not just the Christian values that they should practice but also the Christian doctrines that express the absolute Truth about our God. They will not learn it from school – not everyone is given the opportunity to study in a Catholic school – so please teach them at home and bring them to church.
I know sometimes children act up at church during Mass – it is better to have them act up at church during Mass than for them to be at home far from the community of God worshiping Jesus in the Eucharist.
Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me.” (Mt. 19:14) When children start acting up, please understand that it happens, but more than being distracted by them, let us recognize their presence as a sign that our church is growing – children are being born, young Catholics are growing up in the church. That is beautiful!
Let us be witnesses of hope not only for those who do not have faith but also and most especially for each other in our community. May God continue to bless us all.