Getting to know your neighbour
Change is never an easy reality to handle. Most of us are creatures of habit, established over many years of careful application. When something happens which threatens that stability our first reaction is naturally to question why it is necessary – we’ve always done it this way so what’s the need. This is of course, a response which is at first a bit of a knee jerk reaction. We retreat into a ‘protective mode’ of self-preservation, wanting to defend what we’ve got, just in case the comfort and security we feel and cherish is about to be blown away.
Well, I think that the experiences we’ve had of change over the past few years, has given us a pretty good dose of pragmatism as to how to handle what is about to come to pass for us. This pragmatism can I believe be used to help with the whole process which we are about to embark upon. I hope that the level of knowledge and understanding that this parish has acquired in how to manage its affairs, can be of use in making the right choices and decisions as to how our new community of three parishes, is able to work together in fellowship and support of each other. Unlike the “linked” concept that we have previously been working under, the formation of a ‘Team Ministry’ to care for our three parishes, is a more radical step, and is one in which the need to engage each one of us more deeply in the life of the parish, becomes a necessity rather than an option.
We must of course, never lose sight of the goals towards which we are travelling. These are the unfolding of the gospel in all its richness in the life of our parishes, so that its message of love and mercy, touches those with whom our own lives connect. There is no better parable of Jesus than that of the Good Samaritan to help us realise just how powerful the gospel message is when it is translated into a reality that impacts on us. The message of its narrative, which comes across to us, is that we all, just like the lawyer in the story, can become a bit complacent about what we are like and that unless we hear the gospel message speaking to us directly, then our response to its demands can sometimes, like the man who fell into the hands of brigands, be left at the side of the road to be overlooked without any second thought on our part. The gospel can become invisible to us even though it stares us in the face. Yet how often it is that Jesus reminds us that the responsibility of bringing about the kingdom rests with each of us and that we shouldn’t be content with the thought that someone else will take up the responsibility. Perhaps we should see the gospel in that light, and recognise our Good Samaritan neighbour, as the one who characterises it for us? Then we should ask our selves is that my response or not?
As we know, change is never easy and the hardest part is taking the first step, but once that first step, however difficult or alarming it might seem, once it has been taken it then becomes the step through a door into a new reality. A reality where possibilities open up which would have been unthinkable unless we had made that first step. A new way of being the body of Christ, a new way of exploring with others just what vocation means in the changing and challenging world in which we live. A new way taking the gospel in all its diversity into the lives of those we love.
We have the gifts, we have the experience, we have the expertise to manage this change because we have Jesus Christ who will be with us on this journey. He will give us the encouragement required to make that first step towards getting to know our neighbour.