Dear Sisters and Brothers –
Before Mass starts, those who assist at Mass gather in a circle in the sacristy to pray. I often hear myself wrapping up the prayer by saying “… and may God bind those who gather today into the Body of Christ that we might be his body to all who are in need.”
The Body of Christ, which the Church celebrates today as a Solemnity, I find, is a potent image. You have frequently heard me use St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer in my homilies: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours. No hands, but yours, no feet, …."
The truth of this is powerful. Yes, you and I, along with all baptized Christians, make up the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ. And it is incomplete without any one of us. Astounding—and humbling—isn’t it?
Each of us is essential—essential—to the fullness of the presence of Jesus the Christ in our world. That enjoins on us a responsibility to embody the kindness, compassion, the thirst for justice, and the yearning for peace that is Jesus’.
It also enjoins on us a responsibility and an opportunity to participate in our parish discernment project. We are asking: How do we become more fully and more deeply a community in which each person feels seen and heard? One in which each person feels noticed and known? In which each of us is comforted by a sense of belonging to this faith community?
Two weeks ago, I shared with you some of the ways I see and know you, and that I want to do that more deeply and more broadly. I also shared some of the concrete ways I feel seen by you. (Last week I had another unique experience of being seen, which was much too fun; I was at Game 6 of the NBA finals. The camera flashed in our direction, and I was caught for a few seconds. My phone nearly blew up with emails and texts, many from you. The next morning, I received an email from a parishioner. The subject line read, “We see you!” and the email began “Keeping up with the theme of your sermon on Sunday about wanting a parish where parishioners feel seen, the boys saw you last night at the Warriors game!” I loved it!)
Over the past weeks, we have invited all parishioners to look deeply inside, asking: What would my ideal St. Ignatius Parish look like? What do I want us to change? What do I want that isn't here yet? How can we make changes here in our parish that we'd like to eventually see in the universal Church? What new questions do I want us to ask? What new things do I want us to try?
I invite you to write your thoughts and desires in one of our two books, one placed at the transept of the church and the other at the Communion rail; during the week, this one will be at the St. Joseph altar.
Prior to leaving for my annual retreat on Wednesday, I read through the books and took notes on what you have written so far. I will pray with these during my retreat. I encourage you to read them as well, and take what you read to your own prayers.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is trying to speak to all of us and through all of us. As we each express what we hear in the sacred place of our own soul, what the Spirit is saying will become clear, and over time, with deep listening and further prayer, we will know what to do. This is discernment. We are doing discernment as a parish, as one body, and in this, we are being the Body of Christ.
Where will this lead? It’s too early to tell. We are in the listening stage of this very Ignatian process, listening to our own hearts, listening to one another, allowing others their desires, presuming good will. If we do this, the Holy Spirit will lead us to what comes next. Maybe more listening. Maybe assessing and judging, prioritizing, and listening some more. I don't know. But, in the end, there will be action, well-discerned action to which the Holy Spirit will have led us.
So please continue to pray about what’s in your heart and what you read, even the things that you may not agree with, trusting in your good will and in the good will of all. And please trust, with me, in the importance of this project to our parish, to the universal Church, of which we are a part, and to the world.
Pray with me for our parish, that through this process we become a faith community in which all feel seen and heard and noticed and known. Where we all feel we belong. So that when we walk out those doors, we can be the Body of Christ to all who are in need.
As I mentioned above, I am on retreat until Saturday, June 29. During that time,
oremus pro invicem.