Over the last few years, we have been considering Pope Francis’s call for every Catholic community to be fundamentally missionary. Following this call, Archbishop Comensoli invited the Church in Melbourne to consider what that would look like at our local level. He called us to consider whether our communities were viable, vital and vibrant.
This self-examination has happened on a number of fronts. We consider our Sunday liturgy and our sacramental practice. We look at how we care for our neighbours. On both fronts, we think about what we need in terms of formation and what opportunities exist, both in terms of meeting needs and harnessing our talents. Our two parishes have obviously also embarked on a master-planning process in which we have sought to understand how we can collaborate better, how we can be better stewards of the patrimony entrusted to us by past generations.
In all these areas, we have looked at a number of scriptural passages and models of community to understand better what God is calling us to be. We have done this in many different settings. In various meetings. In different committees. In different social settings. In different reflections and prayer groups. And many of you have communicated very helpful suggestions.
But someone pointed out to me this week that, in the end, all this boils down to basic encounter. The encounter between each one of us and God, and the encounter with our neighbours, both our brothers and sisters in the Church, our neighbours further afield. We have to have a plan for that basic interaction, otherwise the rest just becomes window-dressing. Buildings without people. Structure without life.
Our readings this Sunday give us a wonderful road-map for such encounters. We are given a picture of confidence, as well as the basic steps for evangelisation, a process that each one of us can appropriate personally and one that we can do together. Today, I would like to focus on this process, but focus in the sense of inviting everyone to try it out and see what happens.
As we have mentioned before, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles go together. It is in fact very helpful to read them together. And one of the key themes that jumps out is that what happens to Jesus, happens to the Church, and what Jesus says and does, the Church is called to say and do. As with Jesus, so with the Church.
With that in mind, the very familiar Gospel we have today – the Road to Emmaus – shows us how Jesus is with us, and therefore how he is calling us to be with others.
I am sure everyone here has heard a homily on the structure of the Emmaus story. How the Emmaus story is a summary of salvation history, of the way God is with his people, and how the Emmaus story is a snapshot of the Eucharist. However, what I would like everyone to do this week is make it personal. Go through the pattern of the story – how Christ walks alongside us going the wrong way;l how Christ’s question pulls us up short and challenges us; how Christ listens to our story and then corrects our misunderstanding that we are the central figures rather than him; and how Christ’s proposes but then gives us freedom.
I would like each one of us to identify when we knew this pattern in our own lives. This is important because as we mentioned this is how Christ is calling us to be with others. We need to know this pattern in our bones. We need to be able to witness to this reality to others fluently and credibly. We need to know the moves well, so as to be able to sense where we are in the pattern, and equally when we should move on to the next step in the dance.
As I said, I would like us this week to take some time to identify this pattern in our own lives. However, once we have done this, I would like us to consider one more thing. Each one of us should have a few people in our lives that we are accompanying in this fashion. I would ask you to name them to yourselves, and be honest as to how each one of us is going. How do I stack up against the pattern Jesus gives us? Am I confident in this process like St Peter is in our first reading? Do I believe that the way Jesus maps out for me, the way to help my neighbours, do I really believe that this is helpful – not just the listening but also the challenging, and also the giving people freedom to respond in their own way?
So, let’s pray this week for Christ’s spirit to guide us in this reflection. As we said, this is the crucial building block – the roadmap to life-giving encounter. How much am I invested in the reality of evangelisation? Do I know Christ’s closeness in my own life such that I feel confident introducing someone else into the divine life?