This past week the priests in the Diocese of London were gathered for the annual Priests’ Study Days. It was good to renew acquaintances and spend time together, and to be challenged in faith and ministry. This year our speaker was Deacon Keith Strohm, from Chicago. He spoke to us of “paradigm shifts” that need to happen in the Church in today’s world in order for us to carry out our primary task, that of proclaiming the mystery of Christ. All of this must be based on a real and personal relation-ship with Christ our Saviour. Or, as Pope Benedict XVI put it in Deus Caritas Est, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” A relationship like this leads to a genuine trust in him, trust in a God who loves me, who cares for me, and who will give me the grace I need to live out my baptismal call. It gives me a sense of stability and security, which allows me the freedom to try things that are new. Thus, Pope Francis can say to priests, “Let us rethink our usual way of doing things; let us open our eyes and ears, and above all our hearts, so as not to be complacent about things as they are, but unsettled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord.”
Last week the Synod on the Amazon made big news when the bishops there recommended that “viri probati” (proven men) who are married might be admitted to ordination as priests in this region where there is so much need. That would be a huge change in the discipline of the Roman Church, a true “paradigm shift”. We don’t know yet where this may lead, or how the pope will respond to this recommendation. In one sense, it doesn’t matter. It is about the Church in Amazonia, not Canada. In an-other sense, though, it matters greatly. I think that each one of us, including myself, needs to ask ourselves what our relationship with Jesus is like. Do I love him? Am I his friend? Do I trust him? Will I let him care for me? If I can answer “yes” to those questions then I am truly on the road to becoming his disciple. And as a disciple, my primary mission is to make God’s love known to others. Sometimes structures may need to change. In his first encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote, “We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.” Although that sounds radical, we in the Diocese of London are already experiencing this with Families of Parishes. This new way of “being Church” can be very effective if we each play our role as a disciple of Christ
.In this weekend’s Gospel passage, Jesus breaks all kinds of paradigms by calling Zaccheus down from the tree and going to stay in his house. It becomes a conversion moment for Zaccheus. Today Jesus is intending to stay in our house, in our hearts. How might that be a conversion moment for me?