2003/1 No.302

Letfs Experience a gCommunity of Faithh!

Paul Otsuka Yoshinao, Bishop of Kyoto
a bishop -- explanation of a crest

1.            Donft forget about gPut out into the Deeph

@Happy New Year!

 Last year (2002), in order to promote Collaborative Ministry for Mission in Kyoto diocese, I sent out a New Year Pastoral Letter entitled, gPut out into the Deeph. In that word of our Lord I identified six aspects or images: @ challenge, A unconditional trust, B outlook for the future, C the new needs of the present age, D prayer and E community.

 The main objective of the letter was to deal with the theme gchallengeh. In order to make the idea that the entire diocese is now engaged in Collaborative Ministry for Mission a serious practical reality, I set up a gCollaborative Mission for Ministry Implementation Teamh. I also realized during pastoral visitation of each block of parishes that many of you, the faithful of this diocese, are responding to my call to take up this challenge. I am truly pleased by this response.

 In other Japanese dioceses, there are to some extent differing ideas and understandings of the same term eCollaborative Ministry for Missionf. Nevertheless a shared awareness is rapidly emerging that some new approach is necessary in order to renew the church, specifically different from the notion of a diocese whose missionary activity is administered with the emphasis on individual parishes.

2.    This Yearfs Target: to Experience gA Community of Faithh

 As Christians, believing that the love of God the Father is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, we have chosen to live in such a way that we love one another as brothers and sisters. gThe community (of believers) is itselfc.. the Church, the visible sacrament of salvation.h (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, No.23) In order to be a sign of Godfs Kingdom and an instrument of salvation the Church must become a community whose members can, by experiencing the paschal mystery, grow and develop together in their faith. If we are to develop our own faith, community is indispensable.@Collaborative Ministry for Mission requires that the structure and organization of the Church be renewed but more importantly it requires that we should experience the Church as gCommunityh.

 For this reason I would like to call on each of you, as this yearfs objective in the implementation of Collaborative Ministry for Mission, to work at making gCommunityh the experience we will have of gChurchh.

3.       Why the Church is a Community

 When our Lord Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the gospel, he sent them out two by two. It is easy to understand why he did that. As their missionary activity progressed they experienced not only joy and success but also hardship and failure. They were able to persevere in their missionary work, and to grow spiritually even in trying circumstances, precisely because they were not alone but together with a friend, the pair of them mutually supporting one another. Because they shared their work for Christ, they were able to manage together the prayers, the tasks and the liturgies that they could not have managed alone. It is Christfs wish, therefore, that the Church, gathered by Him and sent out as His disciples, should fulfil that mission by building community. Furthermore, the mission of Kingdom of God which Jesus initiated was proclaimed as one which is gradually fulfilled by mutual involvement as is made clear by these words from the gospel: gTruly, the Kingdom of God is in your midsth. (Luke 17:21) In other words you might say that this new reality of Church, by which people are mutually involved in evangelization, is the Kingdom of God. In that case if we, who for the sake of the Kingdom of God need to serve people by being involved with them, are not ourselves a community whose members are genuinely concerned for one another, we are not properly equipped for the work of evangelization. For the two reasons given above, we cannot be said to be gChurchh unless we are a genuine gCommunityh.

4.         The Community is Evangelized

 When we think about the community of the Church it is vital that we donft understand it simply as some kind of institution. It is the community of faith. It is there that, based on our faith with Jesus at our centre, we share in prayer, the Word and the Bread. We cannot separate our faith from our relationships with other people.

 My dear People, I ask you to think over again your own connection to the Church and then to keep on studying about what the Church is for, what the essential mission and role of the Church is. If you see the Church as simply as an institution to make use of for safeguarding your own faith, a place for fulfilling obligations or for taking part in the liturgy then your faith stands in need of evangelization.

 When the members of the Church are living out the gospel together with Christ in their everyday lives and are actively handing on that faith then it is truly the Church. Jesus promised that, gwhere two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there with them.h (Matt. 18:20) If Church activities are only for the maintenance of the institution and its organization then that is not enough.

 The sacraments and liturgy are signs of grace and actions of the Church community. The liturgy is also the activity of a community that, itself, needs continually to be evangelized. The gospel is first and foremost something that is alive where people are practically committed to one another, not where each is an individual with no relationship to the others. In order to direct the gospel message outwards and hand it on to others the Church must first be living the gospel truly as a community.

5.                       The meaning of experiencing gCommunityh in our Christian Lives

 The reason why we should deepen further the experience of community in our Christian lives and Church activity is because we want to change our understanding of the faith. We want to change from a way of thinking which puts commandments and doctrine at the centre to one which puts living the faith in our everyday lives, and living it with joy, at the heart. In order to nurture this faith we must at all costs be a community.

By implementing Collaborative Ministry for Mission, Christians who are joined together with the community only by attending Sunday Mass are enabled to bring about a new way of doing things based on genuinely communal sharing and involvement. This change cannot be made by one person or by just a part of the community.
It begins when all the faithful come to a new awareness and take their part in building a new kind of church. Most important of all is what we can learn from our own experience. Please think of it as something in which I must take part rather than running away from it with excuses like eitfs too difficult for mef, eit doesnft concern mef, or eIfm too busyf or suggesting that it may be suitable elsewhere. Even if you cannot yet feel totally committed, start to do something practical and your awareness will be changed by this practical action.

@The implementation of joint Collaborative Ministry is bringing about a new way of being Church, not simply by thought and discussion but personally experiencing it.

6.        The Community is for gHuman Growth and Faith Developmenth – through Sharing

 The Church community has two functions. Firstly it is for ghuman growth and Faith developmenth; secondly it is ga base for the evangelization of Societyh.

 I would like to speak first about the communityfs function as a place for human growth and Faith development and Ifd like here especially to deal with Sharing in the community. In recent years it has been already emphasized in the Church, and mutual faith development by means of the deepening practice of this Sharing is an indispensable means of fostering community.

 The evangelization of the faithful does not stop at the level of intellectual change; it extends to the reform of our sense of values, our way of looking at things and thinking about them, our whole way of life. It is important that we first recognize that, as believers, we ourselves are constantly being changed by the power of the gospel and then, seeing that change as an experience of grace, talk about it in our own words. This is never a matter of self-praise or showing off but rather of praising the wonderful power of Jesus, in joy and thanksgiving, when we have overcome some difficult experience. It was especially for this reason that Christ sent us the Holy Spirit.@The person does not speak according to human ability but according to the power of the Holy Spirit; the person who listens does so through the work of the Holy Spirit. We must familiarize ourselves and become accustomed to expressing our own faith experience in words because it is through sharing in this way that our faith is nourished.

 I would like to here to touch specifically on celebrations led by someone other than a priest. On these occasions, instead of the sermon preached by the priest, a member of the congregation gives a gtestimonyh. This time of sharing is extremely important as a community experience, so please make sure it is well prepared and delivered.

7.        The Community is gA Base from which to Evangelize Societyh

As was said in 1987 at NICE I (National Implementation Conference on Evangelization), the lack of any point of reference to involvement with Society in the Churchfs Faith education up to now has resulted in a separation of Church and Society and the isolation of faith from everyday life. Based on this reflection, we were able to implement widely a programme of lifelong Faith development in order to produce gpeople who are walking together with Society, sharing peoplefs sufferings, becoming the conscience of Society and can make a contribution to the building of a new Societyh. Because of this, a new Church movement savouring the Word in the midst of life, gaining insights into and making judgements and decisions about the reality of Society from the viewpoint of the gospel and translating these into actions has begun. This new direction of the Churchfs activities, coming from the laity, is opening up a wider field for evangelization.

 The gospel comes to life particularly in the form of wanting to change peoplefs sufferings and anxieties, their prayers and actual situation into something better. The fact that practical fellowship with people who are suffering discrimination and oppression brings about maturity in both the Christian and the Church has come to be known from personal experience. This is the Way by which the community supported by the inspiration of the gospel can grow into a community that evangelizes Society.

8.        Experiencing Community as a gBlock of Parishesh

 The experience of community does not end within a single parish but can be brought about also at the level of the block of parishes grouped for Collaborative Ministry for Mission. The development of Community and fellowship within the community flow naturally together.

 In Kyoto Diocese the necessity for Collaborative Ministry for Mission and its purpose have been grasped by many of us. As the priests and laity unite more and more as one body to face new challenges, the next stage in the development of the block will become clearer. For the parishes within a block there will be a steadily growing awareness that whilst each of them is a parish community they also belong to the same block community.

 In this way, as they are freed from a narrow sense of belonging only to their own parish, a more gopen relationshiph of shared fellowship and cooperation between friends is beginning to grow. It can be said that working at this new relationship between parishes, that they have been brought together as a Block for Collaborative Ministry for Mission in ga developmenth which is here to stay, will be one of the tasks for implementation of Collaborative Ministry for Mission from now on. The most difficult point about this is how each small parish community, while continuing its efforts as an independent community, will be able to act together with other parishes in the block as an organic unity.

9.        Together with Maryfs Prayer, the Rosary

 In his Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 16, 2002) Pope John-Paul II pointed out that the rosary is a prayer for peace and the family and also that it is a powerful prayer for contemplating the mystery of Christ. He also introduced five new gMysteries of Lighth and proclaimed a gYear of the Rosaryh (until October 2003).

 By making the spiritual journey of the rosary we are each, together with Mary, made Christ-like and develop continually as followers of Christ.

@May we who are making an effort to experience gCommunityh this year, try to live in a fraternal relationship by which we, gRejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weeph. Let us, gGive the same consideration to everyone, not think too highly of ourselves but meet humble people on their own terms,h (Romans 12:15-16) with Mary as our model. Let us take good care of one another and reflect together about whether we relate to others in such a way as to enrich their lives. Let us aim constantly to become a community, gUnited in heart and mind,h so that the life and warmth of Christ can spread to the hearts and minds of many.

New Yearfs Day 2003

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