The readings today address essential, critical elements of being missionary disciples in our daily actions. Perseverance, persistence and endurance are essential in doing kingdom-building, that is being a “field hospital” in our own neighborhoods towards those who are deprived of the love of God in any manner.
This is the way in which I am referring to the parishioners of a parish on the eastside of Birmingham who struggle gravely with the changes that have been going on for years. Four realities face the parish:
- The pastor died;
- Parishioners have been feeling the effects of long term “white flight”;
- The gradual growth of Central Americans and Mexicans who live “on the edge” because of their status in Alabama; and
Jesus tells us about the realities we face in our immediate missions through parables like today’s. Pay attention, for they are lessons in missionary discipleship.
I am encouraging each parishioner to actively serve in some capacity for the sake of building the kingdom of God amidst the 22,000 souls who live around our parish. That is the vineyard, or field in which we have been chosen to serve. The field consists of:
- People who regularly participate;
- Those who occasionally come on particular annual feasts;
- Those who no longer participate in the faith life of the Church;
- Those who never come and are baptized; and
- Those who have no affiliation with the Catholic church at all.
In this “field” the Lord places us, and the above mentioned qualities are present for the purpose of addressing the needs of the various persons and situations that we encounter.
Persistence can be “shameless“ in not giving up on a situation. Persistence can imply an annoyance and stubbornness. Perseverance and persistence carry a note of difficulty and trouble.
It is a matter of “waiting beyond what we can endure,” beyond what we think is our limits. In this way we are showing others a goodness that goes beyond ourselves and our expectations! (Is not that the divine, “beyond our limits and imagination?”)
Yes, I am talking about being purified of not using religion as measuring success by external results like being “holy bean counters.”
In the words of St. John the XXIII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., is the administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama.