Remember the Year of Encounter?
BY DR. JEFF ANDRINI, OFFICE OF EVANGELIZATION AND DISCIPLESHIP
Are you the type of person that walks in the house and hangs your keys where they belong and always knows where to find them? Or might you say that sounds like a system that could possibly save you countless hours trying to retrace your steps looking for the place you flicked your wrist and sent the keys hiding behind something wherever they landed? Let’s just say I am thankful my wife has a policy about where keys go (and my wallet) and it has saved me a lot of time in recent years!
Remembering where one puts things can parallel our experience of learning new words and understanding new concepts that can change the way we understand our lives and faith. Like the keys, learning new words requires routines that need practice and without repetition and focus, we can lose the opportunity for transformation and growth.
Pause for a moment and think about these words: Encounter, Accompany, Community and Send. Do these words ring a bell for you? Do you have a vague memory of these, or have perhaps they changed the way you understand and practice your faith? If these words ring a bell, but you’re not sure why, you are not alone as we are in the midst of a culture change in our diocese that will take many years. Being Catholic is an awesome privilege, but many have left the Church because they have not encountered the love of God in our parishes. They have encountered knowledge about God, rules for living, and sometimes they have found cliques, judgment and roadblocks.
In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document, “Living as Missionary Disciples,” they challenge each baptized member of the Church to realize that God is calling her/him to follow Jesus. As followers of Jesus, disciples, we are sent on the mission of Jesus to love people in God’s name. This is accomplished by having a real, personal, and daily encounter with the living God, through the Scriptures, prayer and the Sacraments. That we become ambassadors for God’s kingdom!
The Year of Encounter, four years ago, was an introduction to equip diocesan and parish staff to recognize the culture change that needs to happen in our Church. We need to experience, encounter, and be changed, by a loving relationship with God. When we learn to receive God’s love and can allow ourselves to be loved by God, then God’s grace transforms us into disciples of Jesus. But without this encounter and necessary conversion, we lack the Holy Spirit and power to live out the fullness of our faith.
We have the greatest treasure in that we receive Jesus in the Eucharist: in the priest, the gathered assembly, the Word and Body and Blood – what an amazing encounter and privilege! The needed change in our culture is to let our hearts be transformed by God’s grace through a culture of encounter with God at every moment in our daily lives. Sounds pretty good, right? This is the invitation from our bishop and the effort of the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship for this coming year, to help support this cultural renewal in our parishes. So if you missed the opportunity the first time around, here’s another chance to learn to experience how close God already is and how much you are loved. Like the keys in the same spot, this will save you lots of time wondering where Jesus is, you’ll know he is right there with you!
Peace in Christ,
Dr. Jeff Andrini is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. Please send comments to email@example.com.