Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Risen Christ is in the Boat with Us

Yesterday, as the Church Universal celebrated the feast of the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Archdiocese of Chicago got to celebrate the installation of its new bishop (Chicago's 13th bishop and 9th archbishop), the Most Reverend Blase Cupich, originally of Omaha and most recently Bishop of Spokane. 

Cupich, whose immigrant grandparents had helped to found his home parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Omaha) had himself apparently chosen the date. Referring to the two readings appointed for the day [Acts 28:11-16, 30-31 and Matthew 14:22-33], the Archbishop said: "Read alongside the story of Paul’s missionary journey, this Gospel text becomes a point of reference to understand the meaning of the resurrection, how the Risen Lord is working in our midst today, and how disciples in all ages, how the Church in our time, should view its mission. Simply put, we are to join Christ in seeking out, inviting, and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us."

Those three themes - seeking out, inviting, and accompanying - appear to be the new archbishop's mission statement. they are obviously very much in tune with the spirit of the present papacy and last year's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. On seeking out, Cupich referenced the gospel of the day: "Jesus’ walk across the waters is intentional. He has come to seek out and to save the troubled, those who are lost. ... We face in our day the formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the Church as priests and religious. It all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water. We are at sea, unsteady in our approach faced with these concerns."

From seeking out to inviting: "Jesus seeks out, but then he invites. 'Come,' he says to Peter, 'walk on the stormy waters with me.' Peter’s response is a brave act for an experienced fisherman. But, it is the kind of daring and boldness required today, the courage to leave our comfort zone and take an entirely new step in our faith journey, both personally and as a community. ... Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so. Maybe, we hear that challenge today as a call to leave behind our comforting convictions that episodic Sunday Mass attendance is good enough, that we don’t really have to change our habitual bad behavior, our unhealthy dependencies, our inordinate attachments, because we can get by as we are, because they have not gotten us into any serious trouble yet, or just because we are afraid of the unknown."

From inviting to accompanying: "Finally, Jesus gets into the boat. ... it is in the incomplete, the in-between and in the brokenness of our lives where Jesus comes to share his life in the Father with us. His coming to be with us, his communion with us is not for the perfect, but is for the salvation of souls, for the lost, the forlorn, and those who are adrift. His communion is not just a quick visit, but he wants to be with us to the point of making our lives the dwelling place, the home where he and the Father abide. After going to the mountain to pray, to be with his Father, he comes into our messy lives with his Father in hand, to share our lives where we are."

Summing up: "Peter could then witness how the resurrection is not just a past event, but an ongoing reality. He could remind us that what Jesus did in crossing the sea, he did again, by crossing from death to life, from eternity to our time, as he continues to make that crossing with us in our day. He could tell us that Jesus came back from the dead for us, to be with us. That is the reason we are not afraid – because we are not alone ...because the Risen Christ is in the boat with us."

And so begins a new chapter in the life of one of our country's traditionally strong local Churches. So far at least, it looks like a hopeful chapter. Anyone can read Cupich's two installation homilies and draw some obvious conclusions - both from what was said and from what was left unsaid. 

There is a lot of gloom and doom in discussions about the Church today - much of it quite understandable. But there are also good things happening in the Church - for example, in Chicago.

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