It's also a time in which I ask, "What is it that the people of Nativity of Mary most need to hear?" Often I hear from people who tell me, "Father, you should preach about this. People need to hear it" or "Just once I wish a priest would say this." I get the sense that there are a lot of you out there who think, "Boy, if I could have the pulpit for just one day!"
So as I discern what I think God would like you to know I also reflect on what all of you might like to say to one another. If it were possible to let each of you have a turn preaching some Sunday, I bet there would be some pretty consistent themes that would come forth. Allow me to try to be a collective voice for the parish. Here is what I think the "average Nativity Joe or Josephine in the pew" most wants you to know and would like to say to all of you:
1. I believe! When Nativity parishioners speak they speak of profound personal encounters with Christ and of powerful ways that God is working through this parish – and they simply want more people to experience that. The average Nativity parishioner wants you to know that God works wonders and glorious things are possible.
2. It's not automatic! In other words, we have this great gift of Nativity parish and school only because people for years and years have responded in love to the call of God. People have put a tremendous amount of heart into this place – through prayer, sacrificial giving, and commitment. Your fellow parishioners want you to know that this work of God cannot continue without the sustained effort of a lot of people who really, really care.
3. Come on, people, get with it! You also should know that the people I hear from would like me to elevate expectations around here. This includes, among other things, committing to Sunday Mass as a non-negotiable, striving to learn and understand our Catholic faith, preserving the worship space and liturgy as a place of prayer and reverence, and everybody taking ownership for the health and well-being of our parish home. People want higher standards. May we always urge one another on.
4. Thank you! This message, I know, would come out loud and clear. People want you to know what a difference you make in their lives. I hear it often. I hope you are hearing it too. This parish has been a blessing to many people in many ways.
So that, I believe, is what you would like to say to one another. I regret I can't give you all some pulpit time. There are many things I could never express as well as many of you could, but I am confident that you all will seek new ways to bear your hearts to one another and to encourage one another on.
In the days to come you will be receiving your stewardship renewal forms in the mail. Those simple forms speak pretty powerfully too – and they mean a lot to all of us. God's best to Nativity of Mary always!