Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Last Sunday I preached about "The Boat" imagery, which used to be a popular metaphor for The Church. It works well when we think about The Church being a community on a journey, especially when that journey encounters a storm. Well church, these past few weeks many of our sisters & brothers have been going through storms. Some, like the Johnson/Patrick family have been going through multiple storms. While some cling to the mast of The Boat while going through a storm, others seem to get swept overboard. Whichever the case, it is important for the rest of us to respond, to throw them a life-preserver. And in most cases this is precisely what happens.
It is another thing that makes The Rock a wonderful "boat." For as long as I've been at The Rock I have witnessed the strong bond that exist between Parishioners. So often, when I go to visit someone who is sick, I find a number of Parishioners who have either already been there or are still there. It is a wonderful sense of family that exists beyond Sunday morning and beyond the church walls. For years I have been aware of the little "villages" or "neighborhoods" that exist within our Parish. Members who have gotten to know each other because they sit near each other on Sunday morning. In so many cases, those bonds have become as strong as any family bond. Some have spawned prayer circles and Bible study groups that exist beyond the normal Parish structure. This is what a Parish, a church (small "c" and capital "C"), is all about.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then I would recommend that you introduce yourself to the people who sit around you on Sunday morning. Or, if you are one of those who are off in a corner, go ahead and move closer to your sisters & brothers. Joining a ministry is another great way to get to know people and develop bonds that go beyond Cook & Grand.
I am reminded of a letter that we received from a visitor many years ago. He described how he was welcomed from the moment he drove into the parking lot and that he was even hugged before he got into the church. He went on to describe being hugged 11 times throughout the course of his visit. He then compared it to his own home Parish where he had been a member for most of his life. He had never been hugged there. In fact, it was a very rare event for anyone to even say hello to him. Most Sundays he went to mass and went home without ever having spoken to anyone. He doubted if even those who sat around him Sunday after Sunday even knew his name. The saddest thing about this is that it probably describes a large number of Parishes. I even received a letter from a man while I was at Liguori who complained, "I just want to be left alone. I want to come to mass and leave without talking to people or shaking their hand, or..." How truly sad and how very unlike any Church that Jesus must have envisioned.
We are a family church, and while some do not like the use of that word because it reminds them of their own flawed "family," it is nevertheless what we are called to be to each other. And just like your family, you can't always pick who belongs, for everyone should be welcomed and we should continue to remind ourselves that we are ALL in this Boat together. Happy sailing!
In the Redeemer,