This week's Realign Resources for Mission Weekly Update comes from Father Paul Donnelly, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Flint on the RRM Principle: "A parish in the Diocese of Lansing instills shared responsibility by all members for the mission of seeking the lost and serving the poor". You can also watch the weekly update video below from Terri Witt, parishioner at Saint Robert Bellarmine in Flushing and member of the Realign Resources for Mission committee. Father Donnelly writes:
“Knock, and the Door Shall Be Opened,” (Matthew 7:7)
On the east side of Flint live thousands of families and singles who live their lives gratefully, on days of hardship and days of glory alike. Beginning with Father Dan Kogut on the day after I moved to Flint in 2015, some friends and I have met many east-siders by the simple means of walking from block to block and knocking on front doors.
They open the doors, and they are wonderful people. They live difficult days and easy days, as do we all, and befriending them has been a joy. As visitors to a house, we begin with a simple declaration: “Good afternoon! We’re your neighbors, but we haven’t met, and we came to meet you.” Rather than approaching with any question or offer to help, we enter into relationship with strangers by expressing that we would rather not remain strangers. These modest meetings on front stoops have blossomed into countless moments of new friendship, of praying aloud in Jesus' name, of answering questions that people having been longing to ask about the Lord and his Church. Families have returned to the sacraments who were away, while others who have lived lives outside of the church have asked in earnest faith for the grace of baptism.
Detail: The Lord's Supper, Print by Fritz Eichenberg, 1951
A few neighbors have preferred to be left alone, and they have said so politely: “No, thanks.” Other than these two or three occasions, every resident of the thousands of houses we have visited has warmly welcomed us. Now, at times I have felt frustrated by the quick reply of some Catholic mass-goers when they hear that we, uninvited, visit people in the city of Flint. "Be careful!," they say. "You shouldn't be out in those neighborhoods." "You could get shot." These precautions are well-meaning but, effectively, excessive and not based in reality. Sister Christina Frey, Deacon Mike Martin, dozens of laypeople from Flint, Ann Arbor, Lansing and all the zip codes in between can confidently say that walking in those neighborhoods is a blessing, not a curse. We have never been in danger of harm.
Behaving with such caution that we never meet our neighbors has not been a successful strategy for seeking out and meeting the lost. When we believers seek out other folks, then enjoying moments of mutual joy and esteem and gratitude, the Father's heart is pleased. He sees his daughters and sons loving his other daughters and sons; the Good Shepherd sees the sheep of his flock seeking out those sheep who are not yet of his flock. The Lord takes a risk by becoming vulnerable to us in the Incarnation; we must also take a risk by becoming visible to our neighbors. If we do not knock, the door cannot be opened. Will you knock?
“Ask, and You Shall Receive,” (Matthew 7:7)
As a parishioner and I were talking a few weeks back, he misspoke and inadvertently uttered one of the best questions I have ever heard. Our theme was how to invite and welcome back people who have lost Christian faith, or who have never had that gift. My friend meant to say, "Gee, I don't know, Father. Should I talk about God to everyone I see all day?" Instead, he transposed a few words to pose this inquiry: "Gee, I don't know, Father. Should I talk to God about everyone I see all day?" Now, dear reader, read those words again: Should I talk to God about everyone I see all day?
The answer, of course, is a thundering "yes." We can begin the day by saying to the Lord, "Holy Spirit, grant me the moments today when I can speak the name of Jesus in love." The Holy Spirit does not refuse. You and I can then, throughout our day, look up to the Father in gratitude for every person we meet or merely see all day long – acquaintances, strangers, and friends – saying simply, "Lord, I thank you for this person whose life is a gift I receive. Bless this one in Jesus' name." When we do this simple deed of love, the Holy Spirit renews our minds with a flood of loving mercy, which flows forth to the person in front of us in words of sincere love. Many times since my parishioner composed his magnificent question, I have promptly talked to God about the people I see. When I pray to the Lord about someone in front of me, he shares his own love for that person with me, and promptly the Holy Spirit grants some words of affirmation. I ask, and I receive. Even folks whom I have never met respond eagerly, especially those who are employed in a workplace where I am a customer. Having worked for hours in their shift, perhaps in a job that isn't their dream, people open up readily to genuine eye contact, to a friendly compliment, to "thanks for keeping this place beautiful," to "How is your shift going so far?" A brief chat swiftly becomes a moment when I can say the name of Jesus with love to a person whom Jesus loves. If we do not ask, we shall not receive. Will you ask?
“Seek, and You Shall Find,” (Matthew 7:7)
I invite you to fill in this portion. As for seeking out the lost, you are able to find them with the presence of the Holy Spirit who is eager to assist you in your present circumstances. The Lord wants you to find the lost, people both materially poor and materially rich who live lives of presumption or despair, but not yet lives full of the hope that comes only from Jesus. Things need not be this way. As long as we believers do not use words in preaching the gospel, we ignore every example in the New Testament and in the lives of Francis of Assisi and all the saints. Now is the time to seek and find, and to depend on the Lord to be ready to speak to those whom he ardently loves and wants to come near.
Blessings in Jesus
– Father Paul J. Donnelly