Reflection 28th January 2018

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

MK 1: 21-28 ( )

Vatican II was a breath of fresh air for a stagnant Church. What followed brought a wonderful renewal and vibrancy to what would subsequently become known as “The People of God.”

That the Mass, the centre of our worship, was now in the vernacular was wonderful. Liturgies became more lively and vibrant. Encouraged to be more involved in parish ministry, the laity responded, embracing the responsibility including through taking bible-study or other courses.

Much older today, these ‘grey heads’ are still to be seen regularly at Sunday worship. However, their children and grand-children, though they are the best-educated laity in the history of the Church, have all but ceased to be involved in Church; they have very little understanding of their faith while Confirmation is now the “exit” sacrament for so many of our young adults.

Apart from the various crises it faced from the 1980s, where has the Church’s outreach failed? 

In today’s gospel we see Jesus going to the synagogue to teach the people. They are absolutely astonished at his teaching but he does pull an ace out of the pack when he cures the young man who was possessed with an evil spirit. Church leaders don’t have that gift, and our young people, for whom such things as sport, dance or a trip to the beach may trump going to Sunday Mass, don’t have the interest to learn more about their faith. Nor do they see religion as relevant to their everyday lives until they are faced with tragedy and are unable to handle the situation.

What is the solution or is there any? My recent experience is that when you put on a course of religious education, bible study or prayer, the only ones who turn up are the faithful regulars. Perhaps we have to admit that the institution of the Church as we know it is dying which may be necessary for it to ‘rise’ again in a new form that could be more dynamic and meaningful. 

Is it possible for Church leadership and active laity to be more aggressive in evangelization and in preaching the Good News in a more meaningful and dynamic way? One solution might be for the Church in each country to take a good look at its assets, including Catholic schools. The front line of our evangelization ought to be the teachers who may have the children of Catholic families in their care for up to 6 hours a day during school year for up to 12 years. Through these teachers – assuming that they are active Catholics who see evangelizing as part of their role – we can reach the families, and evangelization, albeit in a different form, can take place.

Will it work?  We will not know unless we try. 

Seán Lynskey C.S.Sp. – Ordained in 1972, Fr. Seán served for many years in Sierra Leone. After a spell in the USA, including at Duquesne University, he moved to Australia in 1999.