February 16, 2020 - Pastor Message05/19/2021
THE YEAR OF DISCIPLESHIP COLLABORATION (CONT.)
“Epaphras sends you greetings; he is one of you, a slave of Christ, always striving for you in his prayers so that you may be perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I can testify that he works very hard for you and for those in Laodicea and those in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician sends greetings, as does Demas. Give greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house. And when this letter is read before you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and you yourselves read the one from Laodicea” (1 Thessalonians 4:1216).
A careful read through the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul in the New testament reveals that, while the early Church was far from the organized institution we know today, the various Christian communities certainly knew of each other and worked together to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Members of the different Christian communities traveled to other Christian communities; they carried letters from Paul and other leaders among the different Christian communities, where the letters were read and shared; they shared their resources with other Christian communities. In fact, this collaboration among different Christian communities was critical to the development of the Bible as we know it today, as different communities, guided by the Holy Spirit, accepted some writings as authentic and rejected others, such as the socalled ‘Gnostic gospels’. Over time, those writings accepted by the majority of Christian communities were officially recognized as the inspired Word of God and incorporated into the canon of Scripture.
But collaboration among Christian communities did not end with the early Church. As the influence of the Roman Empire reshaped the structure of the the Church into a more recognizable, institutional form, Christian communities became organized into parishes and dioceses. Formal structures for collaboration, such as diocesan, regional, and even universal (or ecumenical) councils, bringing together pastors and bishops from different parishes and dioceses to address major challenges facing the Church, arose. Since you know that I am also a canon lawyer, I must mention that this same process eventually gave birth to canon, or Church, law, as these councils produced norms for all the churches to observe, thus promoting greater unity and stability.
But collaboration among parishes is not limited to the development of Scripture or canon law, nor did it end in the Middle Ages. It is as essential to the mission of the Church today as it has ever been as we work together to address the major challenges facing the Church now. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing our diocese today is the change in demographics, both among our people and among our priests. As the population of our diocese, as well as the number of priests, declines, the need for collaboration among parishes and between parishes and the diocese becomes even more important. Gone are the days when each parish could stand alone. We need to re envision the meaning of parish and diocese. Only by coming together, sharing our resources, our personnel, and our efforts, can we effectively serve the mission of the gospel as Christ’s disciples today. May the example of our forebears in the faith guide us today into a greater spirit of collaboration among parishes.
Fr. Marc Stockton.