Most of us, I suspect, learned at an early age that we are made in the image and likeness of God. If then, this is true, we are meant to be relational and to seek unity with God and with one another. We have heard repeatedly throughout the Easter season, which ended with Pentecost last Sunday, Jesus’s instruction: “Love as I love you.” In Jesus’s teaching, preaching, healing, and forgiving, he consistently sought to unite himself with the persons he encountered and to restore them to union with God. Even when he chastised the disciples or the Pharisees, Jesus was loving them in a way that sought to draw them into union with him.
As baptized Christians, we have been incorporated into the relational life of the Trinity and share in the mission of Christ. What are the implications of this? Just as Jesus’s mission focused on drawing those on the margins closer to him; so too, we are charged with reaching out and responding to those who are separated from the Church, those who have become discouraged and disenfranchised. Last week Rachel quoted Pope Francis in her column saying that “we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.” That fear can paralyze us by letting it take over, or it can be a starting place in our prayer, asking God to deliver us from our fear and strengthen our resolve to follow in Christ’s footsteps, seeking those who are absent from our midst.
Our incorporation into the life of the Trinity and our sharing in the mission of Jesus—that all may be one—make perfectly clear what choice we must make. Let us not fall short of the goal of living out a love based in union with God that seeks to draw others to Christ. Let us make room not only in our benches in church but in our hearts for those who have left us for any reason in the past. As Jesus told us that he was leaving to prepare a place for us, let us prepare a place for our brothers and sisters. Let us put aside the fear that impedes our attempts to make disciples of all people.
Take your next step: Each day for the next month (or year—whatever it takes!), ask God to give you the courage to reach out to someone you know who has left the Church, to welcome them to join you at Mass.