There are some profound challenges that our parishes are currently confronting. Today, our churches stand at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, struggling to find a way and solution for declining attendance, shifting cultural values, and widening generational gaps. We struggle with making our faith relevant in a world that is increasingly steeped in secularism and skepticism, a world where the rapid advancements in technology and a multitude of distractions vie for our attention, often winning over the call of the sacred. We grapple with inspiring the youth, nurturing interest in church leadership, stewardship, service, outreach, and preserving the beauty and depth of our liturgy. But even as we wrestle with these multifaceted issues, it becomes all too easy to lose sight of the most essential and fundamental solution that has the power to transform our parishes into living churches and make our faith relevant.
A few days ago, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension of our Lord. Diving deep into this feast’s spiritual meaning can help us understand the true solution for reviving our parishes and allowing them to grow and prosper. The Gospel of Matthew finishes echoing the last words and commandment of the Lord to his disciples, followers, and parishes today, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
The ultimate solution for reviving our parishes and revitalizing our churches lies in a passionate return to the Great Commission. It reminds us that we are called to build ministries and missions that proclaim the Gospel and save souls, not spend all our energy and resources on building endowments in the vain hope of self-preservation and survival. Our sight has become clouded, our focus skewed towards preserving ourselves, forgetting our essential mission: saving souls. We are called to bear fruit and be the witnesses and ambassadors of divine love, salvation, and hope. A parish can only live and prosper if it builds not barriers and barricades that separate and isolate it from the pain and struggles of the world and community around it but builds bridges of life and love, connecting those who do not know Christ to the transformative power of His love.
God does not play games. If we fail to answer the call of the Great Commission by proclaiming the Gospel to the word, the Holy Spirit will seek other churches to empower and bless, churches that bear fruits, and other parishes through which God can touch lives and reach souls. It is a humbling truth: the only major obstacle to parish growth and prosperity is the parish itself. May the message of the Great Commission sound loud and clear in the walls of our sanctuary and our hearts. May we heed this call, allowing God’s spirit to reshape us as vessels of His grace and messengers of His love, ensuring our churches come alive with renewed vigor, passion, and purpose.