Monday, October 3, 2011

mission



Demons; possession; swine; mass drownings. What am I talking about? No, not a horror movie. It's the story of the Gadarene Demoniacs, our Gospel reading today.

But interesting as those details are, more important is the fact that the story shows Jesus moving outside Jewish territory to reach out to a gentile group. His message is for everyone. And to do that he is willing to move outside the comfort zone.

There's a message for the Church there. All the statistics indicate we are in a period of decline. Conversely, it seems equally clear that most people have a huge spiritual hunger. Which means we have to ask ourselves a question: why is it that the Church is not meeting that hunger for them?

I wonder is part of the answer also in today's reading? Jesus went to people where they were, rather than waiting for them to come to him. In this story he is rejected. But of course, we know that the work of reaching out continued ... of going to people where they were.

And remember about what St Paul said about being a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks? The early Church took a very flexible approach to mission. It realised very early on the need not to encumber the message of Christ with the cultural baggage of the messenger. The Good News began in Judea, but that didn't mean that they had to had to try to make people Jews before they made them Christians.  

Are we ignoring this in parishes today? We do not live in a mono-cultural society. The late 20th & early 21st century is a time of sub-cultures running in parallel to the mainstream. How have we adapted to that in the parish setting? Not at all, I think. In fact, are parishes actually engaging in mission? Most parishes worry about the decline in their numbers, but what are they actually doing to reverse the trend?

And of course while we wonder what we should do, there is a world outside our church doors full of people with a deep spiritual hunger. There is an urgency here. Not just to keep what we have going so that it will be there to meet our needs. We need to figure out how feed the hunger of others. We are a mission oriented church. We have to reach out to people and welcome them in. Even it means, metaphorically, going to dangerous places to meet dangerous people and to risk being rejected by them.

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