It’s a beautiful spring morning as I sit to write: the kind we’ve been longing for and which is much more Easter than most of the preceding twenty eight. Cold yes, but with the brightness of morning sunshine promising to warm water and soil and hearts. A wonderful morning to look to what will be next Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 6:1-7) and which begins with the words:
“About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing …”
It’s a familiar story: the good news of increasing numbers, tempered by struggle and tension; we’re not being fairly treated! And with it comes the requirement for the early church to listen to the complaints and adapt to meet the needs of the current situation. It’s certainly a relevant text for our own times, but what about the neophytes and their continuing reflection on their new status as full members of the Body of Christ? As the apostles considered ways of delegating and involving more people in the tasks of ministry, perhaps it’s a good time to consider ways in which the neophytes’ particular gifts and talents can be welcomed and put to good use within the particular parish community to which they belong. The rite instructs us:
“The period of post-baptismal catechesis is of great significance for both the neophytes and the rest of the faithful. Through it the neophytes with the help of their godparents, should experience a full and joyful welcome into the community and enter into closer ties with the other faithful. The faithful in turn should derive from it a renewal of inspiration and of outlook.” [R.C.I.A. 236]
In my last parish we made a special effort to undertake the necessary discernment and then training and support across various ministries in order that by Pentecost our neophytes could be seen to be active in an appropriate area of ministry. So we had new readers, new cleaners, new flower-arrangers, new welcomers and companions on the journey for new enquirers. Sadly, the new life of Easter can be restricted to a narrow, spiritual focus if we’re not careful and the opportunity to bring new people into new areas of ministry can be overlooked. Just as that clear blue sky of a sunny spring morning can highlight the tired paintwork and dingy windows that have survived the darkness and gloom of winter so too the Easter life of resurrection can highlight the need to revitalise ministries that have perhaps grown tired, albeit settled and comfortable. A burst of energy and enthusiasm can be just the Easter sunshine required to warm the water, the soil and the hearts of our parish ministries. Whilst a failure to consider ways of integrating the new life the neophytes represent into the existing life of the community risks leaving them marginalised and under-valued. There’s a wonderful David Whyte poem, Everything is Waiting For You, that I think speaks to both neophytes and the community at this special time, especially the final verse:
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
Perhaps part of the joy of mystagogia is the discovery that for both neophyte and parish community everything is indeed waiting!
- Everything is Waiting For You, Poems by David Whyte, 2003 Many Rivers Press