Today’s gospel reading makes an outrageous call on the followers of Jesus that they ignore the carefully drafted laws of cleanliness and invite the poor, the unclean and the lame to dine with them.
It is thought-provoking today as we consider the future of our church in light of an ever decreasing number of priests. Now, more than ever since the days of the early church, we are in a position to influence the shape of the church.
When considering leadership, particularly spiritual leadership, which is what we must look for in our church leaders, we must seek out those who bring us closer to Jesus, who help us to enhance our relationship with God.
Such spiritual leadership is evident when we
• critique what we see happening in the world around us, in light of Catholic social teaching, because reality is not always what it seems to be;
• have a vision to think outside the square and imagine a better future, and
• question in order to give meaning to our lives.
One question must be, are we wanting to create a Jacob’s ladder, which rises in the shape of a pyramid so that those who want to get to the top must push others off as the ladder narrows? This is the competitive model.
But another model might look something like Sarah’s circle which can easily expand to encompass newcomers. This fits with the call, in this archdiocese particularly, to work collaboratively, recognising that every Christian has, by virtue of baptism, gifts and talents to be recognised and used by all as we strive together to bring about the reign of God—that situation where the last shall be first and the first, last.
The archdiocese is fresh from another injection of collaborative thinking after a visit from Br Loughlan Sofield and Sr Carroll Juliano. The story on page 2 gives some tools for discerning the gifts of those with which we want to build a church that will realise the reign of God. Loughlan and Carroll were here four years ago when the Launch Out formation programme for lay pastoral leaders was in its infancy.
This time they worked with pastoral areas to stimulate new thinking about the gifts of our neighbours and how we can recognise them for the furthering of God’s kingdom.
American theologian, Matthew Fox, says that Vatican II moved the church from a Jacob’s Ladder, competitive model to a Sarah’s circle model of collaboration.
He suggests that our baptismal call is a call to some form of ministry for everyone, not just a select few.
One important consideration for realising the gift of ministry that we all have is to know what is going on around us. Caritas gives us some pointers about justice in the lives of some of the people who benefit from the projects Caritas works with—some of these projects are described on pages 10 and 11—for it is in looking at the injustice in other people’s lives that we see where people are disadvantaged in our own society.
From here we can use our gifts to work together to challenge the injustice in our society, and in our church, to bring about a world where the last will be first.