How to plan a year in the parish in the atmosphere of tiredness that is felt everywhere? The question might suggest a pessimistic reading of the current pastoral moment. Instead, far from it! It stems from the conviction that this moment of crisis is an opportunity to finally bring about that renewal in which perhaps we no longer hoped. The difficult time we are going through is a precious period, beautiful to live, as long as it is faced with the right attitude: that of those who are willing to let themselves be surprised and attracted by a possible novelty.
Back in 1967 the theologian Karl Barth wrote that the future of Christianity will either be mystical or it won’t be. Mystical does not stand for spiritualist, but for rooted in the mystery of God as an absolute priority, and not just a theoretical one. If this is true, then the coming year must see us striving to defeat the activism that absorbs more energy than it generates in terms of Christian life. Parishes must courageously choose to do less, not to save themselves but to restore the proportions between the elements of value that make their life: fewer initiatives, fewer activities, fewer meetings … The future does not pass from there. The future passes from Christian communities rooted in the essential and founded on a style that knows how to interpret the questions of life and serenity of the people of today, to witness within the flow of the existence of all the beauty and originality of the Gospel. So programs inspired by depth, audacity, creativity.
The ecclesial community has its center in the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life, says the Council. Not because it is the only thing that remains when nothing else can be done, but because it is the heart, in which everything is contained: encounter with the mystery of God and his action in us and in history, encounter with believers in a fraternity that generates a different world. This is the essential, this is all.
The Eucharist is celebrated in a place and at a time. It is not possible to live it in truth if there is no attentive and empathic commitment on the part of a community to know the human reality in which it is rooted, but above all the characteristics of this complex time, in which important changes are taking place which, unknown, they end up generating disorientation, judgment, distancing. Christian communities have a great debt of knowledge towards society and the phenomena that characterize this time; and a great debt of empathy! It is difficult to bear witness to the Gospel in a world from which one only wishes to distance oneself.
The Eucharist is an experience of God. If it does not reach this depth, it is a rite that does not touch life. Are Christian communities able to ask people today the question about God? God is not known in books or by simple logical processes. God meets in silence, in contemplation. Today young people are looking for places, moments, experiences that intercept their restlessness, their thirst for the infinite. And adults are no less.
The Eucharist is an experience of listening: of the Word above all, to find new words to communicate among us. The challenge for a parish today is also to create places where people can talk to each other, listen to each other, tell each other what they are experiencing. The activities related to the Synod are saying the great need people have to feel listened to.
The Eucharist is fraternity: imperfect but possible, desired and constructed. In order not to run away from church as soon as the celebration ends, it is necessary to decide to give value to the relationships between people who make such an important choice as that of reliving the Lord’s Supper together. Together: young and old, men and women, people of all social backgrounds and cultures of origin. Will a parish be able to invent gestures, choices, styles that show the fraternity of which the Eucharist is a sign and promise?
The Eucharist is a gift of oneself: what the Lord has done for us, because we too continue to do it over time. What we must continue to do in memory of him is not so much the ritual as the love with which we have been given a new lease of life. It is the challenge of finding the forms that today, in everyday life, speak of an existence that rejects the narcissistic individualism that generates sadness, in order to discover the fruitful beauty of the free encounter with the other.
Thus, the Eucharist is not only the heart of ecclesial life but also the paradigm of it and of its mission. Soul of every pastoral program.
Here: whoever wanted to find in this reflection a list of things to do – new things, perhaps, capable of attracting crowds and receiving thousands of likes – will now perhaps be disappointed. But the intention was simply to solicit in the reader a new look at today and at the same time the courage to face Christian witness with a new sympathy for this time.