Sounds Like a Plan
- Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
- Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- 29 September 2019
It has been said that if you want to make God laugh, then tell him all about your plans. One of the most profound prayers we can offer is to have the wisdom to discern God’s plan for us and to be given the strength to carry it out. It is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden on the night before he died. We cannot completely know the mind of God, but through the gift of faith, the truth has been revealed to us. In the person of Jesus Christ, and the witness of the Scriptures, the plan of God has been revealed. One of the primary roles of the Church is to be the custodian of word and sacrament. It is a role we undertake with some trepidation, knowing the weakness of men and our proclivity to fail. But the promise of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is that we shall not be abandoned. God is always with us, even though we may not always be with God.
“Strategic planning” has become very popular in the business world. It seems like every industry has a mission, values and goals narrative. Planning is a necessary part of our lives. In that sense, the Church is really not any different. We are a human institution that is withinthe world; but we are also a Divine communion of believers that is not ofthe world! The Church is both visible and invisible, just like we profess in our creed. Looking back through our history, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, it is apparent that planning has been part of our story. This is what people do; it would be stupid not to plan and prepare for the contingencies of an uncertain future. The problems begin to arise when our plans begin to run contrary to God’s plans. The Scriptures witness to the action and intent of God. In the Law, the Writings and the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, the plan of God is gradually revealed. Christians believe that the Gospels witness to the fulfillment of that plan in the person of Jesus Christ. The material universe itself reveals the order of creation, where the discipline of science, as a branch of theology, has begun to accurately predict and describe the cosmos. Wisdom tells us that the more we learn about what we know, the more we know there is much more to learn. So we cautiously and tentatively “plan” for a future that ultimately rests in the mind of God.
Our Diocesan Church has been engaged in a planning process over the last couple years. Parish leadership, both clergy and lay, were consulted about the priorities of the Church in a climate that is becoming increasingly difficult. Over the last two thousand years we have been through difficult times before. There have been times of apostasy and division, scandals and persecutions from the very beginning. Our task is to deal with the challenge of our own time and respond in faith with the care of the Good Shepherd. The Diocesan Pastoral Plan “Uniting in Heart” is now being rolled-out by our Bishop as a “strategy” to understand the challenges we face and seize this opportunity to witness the peace of Christ and the joy of the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit has been with us, just as Jesus promised, and has been moving the parish of St. Elizabeth Seton together with our Diocese along the same path. The vision of “Uniting in Heart” rests on the three goals of Mission, Community and Witness. It is not designed as a strategic plan to make more widgets; it is a pastoral plan to make more disciples. Along with the other parishes of our diocese, the universal Church and all those of good will, we shall be intentionally focusing on specific aspects of the challenges that confront us from within the Church and from an increasingly secular society. There is much work to be done to build the Kingdom of God. Our mission to make disciples of all nations has not changed, but is now receiving the concentrated attention of our brethren in neighboring parishes and throughout the Church. Uniting in Heart is drawing us together, bringing the peace of Christ and the joy of the Gospel to a confused and anxious world. Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray that we shall be made worthy of this call we have received.