A few years ago, the Parish Pastoral Council was asked – why are we here as church?  What is our purpose as church?  Can we articulate our goals as church?  We began the discussion around a mission statement for our parish communities, as this can give us a sense of direction and meaning.  Members of the Parish Pastoral Council were asked to explore a statement of purpose that could be put in writing.  We did not want to rush the endeavor, so ruminated over it for some time.  As our meetings began again, we revisited our concept of a mission statement.  A proposal was put forward at our first meeting and was unanimously agreed upon.  We decided on a mission statement that was short and concise, as mission statements that are too long get complicated and sometimes forgotten.  The mission statement for our MFOCC is nine words:

Open to God, Open to Others, Open to Transformation

            Open to God?  Being open is at the heart of the Christian life.  Openness implies I do not have all the answers and that I am willing to be nourished by God and others.  Openness to God sees everything as God’s initiative of love in our lives and then our response.  If we are not open, how can we receive the love; how can we cooperate with the promptings of the Spirit?  As we approach the celebration of Christmas, we recognize the initiative of God, who comes to us – Emmanuel = God is with us.  God comes to us, so are we open to receive this great gift?

            Open to others?  One of the great explanations of the Church is “The People of God,” indeed all people make up this body of Christ we call – the Church.  Openness to others implies a willingness to allow people into the realm and orbit of our life, so we can be enriched by this encounter.  Dickens’ famous character, Scrooge is an example of not being open to others and the unfortunate consequences.  If we turn inward, build walls, create barriers and think only of ourselves, we become miserable and a “sourpuss” to use the words of Pope Francis.  The Peoples’ Pope – Francis is a prime example of one who is open to others.  The joy this brings one’s heart is evident in him.

            Open to transformation?  If we are open to God and others, we will find growth happening in us.  If we are receptive to the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, often through the encounters we have with others, transformation in us will occur.  What is most beautiful is that God will do all the work in us.  Transformation or holiness is not our project; rather if we are open, God will bring about the transformation in our lives.  Let go and let God bring about this good work in us.

            This statement of purpose also places God first, others second and us third.  In the seminary, I visited Madonna House – a lay community in Combermere, Ontario.  Everywhere above the doorways was the sign, “I am third.”  It was a powerful reminder of the primacy of God, our need to think of others and then to think of ourselves.  This is a countercultural message in our individualistic or self-obsessed society.  Ironically when we get our priorities straight and place God first, at the center of our lives, we too are cared for in ways we could not have imagined.  God helps us to see the needs of others.  As we help our neighbours, others take notice and begin to see our needs, leading them to care for us.  Openness is what a caring church is, and once open, you will see the wonders it performs.

            May this mission statement for our community of faith, guide us and remind us of who we are called to be.  Plus the best part of all, God will do the good work in us; all we need to be is: Open.

Peace be with you, The Parish Pastoral Council