Build Christ’s community where it’s needed most

| Jean Denton | February 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

In the Gospel for Feb. 7, Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him and join his mission to bring all people to God’s way of life.

His offer is convincing: Having the audacity to teach experienced fishermen how to fish, he demonstrates that if they follow his direction, they’ll achieve a greater haul than they could attain by themselves.

Jesus’ message is to all of us: Trust that by following his way you will draw people into his fold.

By contrast, a refrain we often hear in our social enterprises today, “Build it, and they will come,” is based on a belief in the pre-eminent power of our own will — through marketing.

However, any city planner will tell you: Build it in the wrong place and “they” won’t come, no matter how slick your marketing.

I learned how wise planning creates healthy, vibrant communities from my friend Joel, a longtime city planner. Indeed, communities hire planners to direct development and growth to best serve the people’s needs; build to enhance their lives and they’ll not only come, but they’ll also participate.

No wonder Joel, also a devoted Christian, understands how to respond to the call to build and develop Jesus’ community. He knows that Jesus’ instruction to “put out into deep water” means to go where God is most needed.

Joel and his wife chose for their faith community a small church in a struggling low-income neighborhood where the people were open to God’s grace and just waiting to be “caught.” Indeed, Jesus’ way brought in a large haul there.

Joel showed me a small neighborhood park that he and fellow church members developed, with the city’s blessing, on city property across the street from the church.

A local landscape architect volunteered to design the park. Then at-risk teens from the neighborhood joined with the church youth group to do the landscaping with plants and materials donated by local suppliers. Children from the nearby grade school created and installed small outdoor sculptures, and other businesses contributed a sprinkler system and benches.

As the park became a center of neighborhood pride and activity, more people came to the church, drawn by the congregation’s embrace and care for its community.

This Catholic News Service column is offered in cooperation with the North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.


Sunday, Feb. 7
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings

  • Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
  • Corinthians 15:1-11
  • Luke 5:1-11

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Category: Sunday Scriptures