A new year’s resolution is usually a plan for personal development or improvement of the quality of one’s life. It’s a wonderful custom. For a faith community, however, while we value personal development and improvement, it would be more instinctive for us, as the Body of Christ, to be a bit more communally minded: resolutions for us as a community of faith.
Our starting point is the double celebration on January 1, 2018 honoring Mary, Mother of God and the 51st World Day of Peace. Here we find our inspiration and guidance for considering communal resolutions. Pope Francis focused our attention on “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search for Peace” in his World Day of Peace Message for January 1, 2018. His inspiration were the words of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI who spoke of these populations as “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for a place to live in peace.”
Migrant and refugee populations tell the tale of a world that is insecure and un-peaceful, embroiled in conflict, divided over the ethic of welcome, integration, protection, and promotion. A parish community can put a face to this “search for a place to live in peace.” Those who are unsettled are not just the highly publicized and politicized movements: Syrians, Rohingyans, Mexicans, etc. A community such as Church of Our Saviour knows all too well of other refugees: a spouse seeking shelter, fleeing with his/her children from an abusive partner; a young person seeking meaning in life only to be misdirected by drugs and alcohol in that journey; to name only a few.
At the start of this new year we hear about the shepherds at the time of Jesus’ birth. They stirred amazement in those who heard what they had to share. This Gospel reveals our identity and our vocation: to be amazed and to take our amazement into the world. All too quickly we realize that our “amazement” may be like another language that the world does not know. We are amazed; but, our world, the places where we work, study, live is not so amazed.
For our new year as a parish here in Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral there emerge some “resolutions”, if you will, which can set the tone for how we live and share the amazement of those who are the companions of Jesus. I am thinking of 4 “resolutions”:
1.) The Port Canaveral Ministry: We have already talked about this initiative - huge numbers of people come to our area to board cruise ships for vacations; likewise, there are the increasing number of cargo ships that come to the Port and enhance the market and economy of our region and nation. These maritime industries are supported by large numbers of employees who staff these ships and most often are far from home, family, culture, and spouse for long periods of time. The majority of these share the Catholic faith with us. We want to continue to develop a pastoral response to their needs, these who, in their own way, are migrants and refugees, good people only seeking a way to make a good life for their loved ones. This initiative needs our full commitment as we shoulder it with the Diocese of Orlando and Catholic Charities of Central Florida. It is a need that is at our front porch.
2.) Counseling: Gratefully Catholic Charities of Central Florida has once again pledged to re-instate counseling services as part of their profile here with us in Brevard County. The need is great. Here, too, we want to support this effort in all the ways we can. We can partner with such efforts through our St. Vincent de Paul Society and our Mercy House. These ministries position us to be engaged in the needs of those who suffer various kinds of insecurities in day-to-day life. At the same time a new area of ministry is emerging that can foster our formation in the interest of “interpreting the signs of the times” for those who find the times harsh and hostile, anti-life, anti-good, anti-just. We are presently establishing a Social Concerns Team to help us know and implement the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church.
3.) Environment: We live in a very fragile environment and eco-system – the Indian River Lagoon. We are an island, with water on all sides of us as a parish. We want to learn how critical it is for us as a faith community to be good stewards in the interest of our “common home”, as Pope Francis calls the earth. The reality of climate change is far reaching. My years in the mountains of the Dominican Republic in our sister diocese taught me this. Over the years I saw the gradual deterioration of the natural cycles of rain, dry, cool and heat to the devastation of survival modes common among the poor. Now, the rains are not dependable; draughts last longer and occur more frequently than ever before; winds are more frequent and destroy flowering bean and coffee plants; entire harvests are lost; the young leave the mountains to seek work in the cities where values do not compare with how they were raised. What we do here in our area matters to all places. We should not shy away from embracing all that we can do to educate each other and take up appropriate initiatives to protect and honor our “common home”. It is a missionary imperative that touches upon our being prophets like Jesus as shared with us in Baptism, and a mission of reconciliation. It is more than just “picking up garbage”. I like the line: “Live simply so that others can simply live.”
4.) Prayer: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19) These are the words taken from Luke’s Gospel as proclaimed for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, January 1, 2018. As a parish the invitation is to undergird all our resolutions, and the necessary efforts to see them through, with prayer. Ahead of us this year will be the renewal of our Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ministry, which is a parish commitment to pray contemplatively, “pondering in the heart”. Likewise, may we resolve to embrace even more fervently the guidance and support our small Christian communities structures offer us in this same endeavor of “pondering”. All of this both leads to and comes from what we do when we gather for the Sunday Celebration of Eucharist, which we wish to make true prayer and practice of the “amazement” the Lord stirs in us so to be his nourishment for a fleeing and unstable world.
These parish resolutions can be embraced by our many ministries toward supporting and fine-tuning them. By these we “evangelize” using all that we are and have as a parish, making them daily habits of our mind and heart as those who are companions of Jesus.
I wish everyone a very sacred 2018.