LITURGY MATTERS: a missionary heart is the foundation of Christian Initiation

Today’s Liturgy Matters continues to focus on RCIA ahead of our day with Team RCIA on 19 October. We are endeavouring to ‘till the ground’, to get us thinking so we come ready and open to engage with Nick and Diana and each other and so get the most from the day. 

There is no Christian Initiation without in the first instance MISSION, PROCLAMATION OF THE GOOD NEWS, EVANGELISATION. Whatever word we use, they all mean the same thing. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations; baptise them … teach them … and know that I am with you always.’ (Mt 28: 19)

We are by baptism and nature ‘missionary disciples’ and the church therefore a missionary community. We are not by baptism or nature a community who is meant primarily to abide in the safety of the Church building and our liturgy and our community. We are in the first instance a community who is sent, to ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!’ The point of celebrating eucharist is that we are fuelled and shaped for mission 24/7 in our very own neighbourhoods.

And so at the centre of parish life is a ‘missionary heart’: a heart full of love, a heart full of joy; a heart full of an irrepressible desire to proclaim this good news throughout our world. This is our gift and with it comes the great privilege and imperative to share it with others.

A parish with a missionary heart is not waiting for people to come knocking on the parish door, or to send an email or to ring the parish office so they can be referred to the RCIA co-ordinator. A parish with a missionary heart ensures that every single member, irrespective of age and circumstance, knows that they are commissioned to take up the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love wherever they find themselves.

And this very thought makes some of us nervous.  One of the famous lines St. Francis is reported to have said is, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times.  If necessary use words.’ We live Christ’s mission, we participate in it, not by setting up a soap box on a street corner, or by gathering our work colleagues together to talk to them about Jesus.  Primarily we participate in Christ’s mission, proclaiming the love of God by the way we live. Like Mary in Sunday’s Gospel, we are attentive to the voice of God as we hear it in the liturgy and life.  And having heard God’s word, like the Good Samaritan, we respond with the compassion of God, no matter who is in need and whatever the circumstances. 

Our Churches are full of people who live like this, people who inspire us by their grace and generosity.  At the same time, a lot of us ponder the challenge. How can we help people deepen their appreciation that their everyday lives are the primary way the Church contributes to the mission of Jesus today, and that we do this not alone but as members of the Church community.  How do we make clearer and stronger the essential connection between life, liturgy and mission?  How do we make more perceptible to people’s senses the meaning, depth and power of the dismissal at Mass, ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!’  How do we gather in people’s experience of mission when we gather for liturgy?

I think there are two intimately connected things for us to consider:

  1. A parish with a truly missionary heart is the essential fertile ground of RCIA. Such a parish community is the RCIA team.

AND

  1. How can RCIA be a spark that helps us fan into a raging fire our parish community’s appreciation and understanding of its essentially missionary identity and heart?

This is a critical area we need to reflect on together if we are to fan the flame of mission and RCIA in the Church of Maitland-Newcastle.  There is no Christian Initiation without mission. Mission, Proclamation of the Good News, Evangelisation is at the heart of parish life and of RCIA.

We all have wisdom to share.  I invite you to consider this in your community and be open to sharing the fruit of your reflection when opportunities to gather present themselves, especially on 19 October.  

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Co-ordinator of Liturgy.