Each Friday we will be posting the Alpha Course Talk from this past week. Enjoy this one a day early!
Dear Parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary
In 2013 IHM held voices sessions inviting member of the parish to give input that would help shape our 2014-2019 Pastoral Plan.
Planting the SeedsFrom those sessions and conversations with our professional staff and our parish council we formed a plan to focus on Discipleship and Evangelization in everything we do as a parish. This commitment was certainly influenced by the papal calls for us as Church to embark on a “New Evangelization.” By this we were to understand our call to proclaim the Gospel in a way that will speak to a culture from which many have become ambivalent to it’s life-giving message. Our Bishop inspired us with his first pastoral letter in the spring of 2013. “Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord:
Fanning the Flame
The flame for this focus was fanned at the Diocesan Conference in the Fall of 2014. We gathered with representatives of all parishes and with our Bishop to talk about how we can move our parishes from maintenance to mission. In what ways do we need reshape or even change the culture of our parishes to better reflect our Baptismal call to “Bring the Good News” of Jesus Christ into all areas of our lives?
It was from these conversations and prayer that we were led to consider the Alpha Course. Alpha provides the opportunity for participants to be introduced (or re-introduced) to Jesus Christ, the God-Man on a personal level like never before. It is a simple and direct encounter designed to help us focus first and foremost on who Jesus is and what he has done for us
Why is this important? Let me draw from the wisdom of Fr. John Riccardo who has also brought the experience of Alpha to his parish.
Its about the person-and his name is Jesus
Quoting a friend he said: “trying to catechize someone who has never been evangelized is like planting seeds in concrete; they won't grow.” What did he mean? Many people in the Church grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schools or religious education, received their sacraments of initiation, but somehow never got truly introduced into a friendship with Jesus, and through Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Father. The result? Faith was reduced to a subject, a set of things to memorize, a code, an ethic, some rules to abide by (when convenient). But at the heart of the Gospel is not a code or a set of rules but a person: Jesus. Rules don't change people's lives, they don't bring peace that can't be stolen, they don't lead to conversion, to joy, to unshakeable hope. Rather friendship with God, the God who loves us, made us, became one of us, went to the cross to atone for our sins, and gloriously rose from the dead for us does change lives.”
The Kerygma first
Again quoting Fr. Riccardo: “On the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles went out into the streets to preach to the people, they didn't start with a systematic treatise from the Catechism. They didn't launch into a full-blown RCIA program. They didn't event start with a teaching on the Eucharist and the other sacraments. They preached what is known as the kerygma. The kerygma is a Greek word meaning "proclamation." In short, what the Apostles did on that day was to proclaim in a very basic fashion what God had done for the world in His Son Jesus. This proclamation was directed to the hearts of those listening to move them to act, to make a decision, to repent and to accept the love of God offered to us in Jesus. Only after this was a second, and very necessary, step added: what's known as the didache, or "teaching." I think it's safe to say that many people who have grown up Catholic never heard the kerygma; we started right away with the didache which, as my friend put it, is like planting seeds in concrete. Pope John Paul II put it this way: "Initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man 'into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ' and opens the way to conversion. Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching" (The Mission of the Redeemer, 44).
Come and See
Jesus said to the first disciples who approached him in chapter one of the Gospel of John: “Come and See” (Jn 1:39). God sent us the Holy Spirit to lead us to Jesus.
Guided by this same Spirit, I offer you ALPHA. Let the Spirit open your hearts and minds to a new experience of Jesus. He is Lord of Lord, and King of Kings. But he is also the God-Man who can be your best friend; one you can always count on to be there for you. Come and See. Give ALPHA a try. Bring a friend. It could be a life-changer for both of you.
Your Servant in Christ,
As a Christ-centered, Spirit-led faith community,
fed by Word and Sacrament,
we bring the “Good News” of God’s love
into all areas of our lives,
that we may lead others to Christ.