• on March 7, 2020

A Church on mission, a Church that moves

From our sherpart
Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores
Bishop of Brownsville

(*) The Valley Catholic

This kind of creativity
is what is needed in the Church”

Google maps usually gets me to where I need to go, but in February, the colonia I was searching for took some time to find. A dirt field on the corner of Conejos and Salida Road somewhere between north Brownsville and Olmito waited as the site for an outdoor Mass for one of the communities of San Pedro Parish. We celebrated Mass from a refurbished trailer, una Capilla Móvil that Father Joel Flores and a parishioner welded together from what he said was “literally a rust bucket.”

Hundreds gathered beneath the sun on a windy day, bees buzzing, cars parked in every direction, and the joy of the community overflowed. Celebrating Mass in our parishes is always a high point in my days. On this particular Saturday, Feb. 15, I was most grateful to the Lord. It reminded me that the Lord had to travel at times. Sometimes he and his disciples had to travel far, and people made the effort to be with him. They could not use Google maps to find him, or call an Uber to take them, but they came from very far to draw close to him. They looked for him.

In the Gospel reading that day from Mark on the multiplication of loaves and fishes, the Lord is preoccupied about how the people who come looking for him are doing. He is thinking, “They will not collapse because they come here looking for me.” This is why he initiates the miraculous multiplication. That is the first lesson in this Gospel. The Lord looks after his people, and the Lord’s preoccupation that the people not collapse from hunger, is what moves his disciples. If the Lord had not been preoccupied about his people, then the disciples would never have moved. They would have been content to say, “Send them away, there is nothing here.” Like the world of today says, “It’s not my problem.”

But it is a concern of the Lord’s, and his disciples must understand his concern so that they may recognize their own mission. It’s that simple. The Lord is concerned about his people. That they have something to eat, and therefore, his people must share his concern. Thus, his disciples, then and now, offer the Lord what they have. The bread. And the Lord blesses what the community has, what his disciples have.

The blessing of the Lord over the fish and bread has extraordinary power. The power of his blessing, which is not limited by the laws or resources of the world, multiplies our resources. And the disciples distribute this. What does this signify? That when the Lord is among us, there are sufficient amounts for everyone.

But we should note that it took the Lord’s blessing for the disciples to get up and do something. If the disciples do not move, Jesus’ work is not complete. And the only reason the disciples moved, is because Jesus poked them. He has to poke us.

If the disciples don’t move, the food cannot be distributed. But there can be nothing to distribute if the Lord does not give his blessings. In a sense this is what the Church lives every day. First we need the nourishment of the word of God in order to know what preoccupies him. Because what concerns him, should be our concern.

Our eyes are opened by this Word. The Lord worries about us, about our response to him. He wants to know if we are going to move, if we are going to take on his mission. The Lord worries about us and he wants to nourish us, by his own presence, especially in the Body and Blood, and by his lessing, he multiplies the strength of this nourishment.

What happens when we gather like this at Mass? The Lord takes what we have and by his blessing he is going to feed us. Not bread for our stomachs, but the bread that gives eternal life. It is the nourishment of the community that is distributed; it is the nourishment the Church most needs. This work requires many hands.

The Lord says to us, “Can you give to others? Can you be concerned about others that they have this bread that comes down from heaven?” And if you can, you will invite them to come, and invite them to know the feeding of the Lord.

The Lord moves us to live this preoccupation for others. We know there are many who do not get close to God because they are afraid. And we know that many do not approach the sacrament that gives eternal life and gives the communal closeness of the Body of Christ, the Church. They do not approach because they are afraid, afraid of being treated like a problem and not like a person.

We must extend ourselves. The Lord gives his blessing, but he wants to move us to share in his preoccupation. Which is what we are trying to live in the Church, and not just here, but elsewhere in the Diocese and in the world. Let no one suffer hunger for Christ because we have failed to respond to the Lord’s preoccupations.

One of my preoccupations is exactly this – that we must find ways to celebrate Mass where the people are. Because where the people are, Christ is, and Christ is hungry to receive his people at the sacrificial banquet of eternal life.

The Church is the Body of Christ, and the people need to be nourished by the Body of Christ. I often speak of this, that what we need is to find locations like the colonia where we celebrated Mass in February to place an altar and proclaim the Word of God, and offer the sacrifice, because this is what the Lord asks of us all.

The Church can’t just sit in its own building waiting for everyone to come. Jesus walked; he traveled, and people looked for him, and they found him.

Congratulations to the San Pedro Church community on their Capilla Móvil. This kind of creativity is what is needed in the Church. It serves as a model for a Church on mission, as Pope Francis says. A model of the Church that goes out to the people. Nos tenemos que mover.

There are many Catholics who are not nourished by the body of Christ because they do not approach the altar. If people cannot come close to the altar, it is necessary for the altar to go and look and get close to the people.

It is an instinct to look for the Lord. That is why a mobile chapel, una capilla móvil, is more necessary, I think, than a mobile phone. The nourishment we receive from God helps us much more. If the people can’t get close to the altar because it’s hard to get there, or their fears impede them, then the altar must go where the people are.

The dirt, the wind, the buzzing bees did not interfere with the joy of celebrating an outdoor Mass where the people are.

The Lord knows that a community that stays seated does not help him. He tells us to move. As we hear him tell us in the Gospel of Mark 8:1-10, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” And that is why we worry about others. The Lord blesses and he provokes us to move, so that we can give others who cannot approach the altar the word and sacrament of eternal life, and the joy of being members of his Body the Church.

Three points to remember: Jesus is preoccupied about his people. 2. The blessing of Jesus multiplies the resources that we offer him. 3. And Jesus moves his people so that we can be preoccupied with what preoccupies

This Lenten season, I invite you to move, to go out into the community and look for ways to feed God’s people.

(*) The article was taken from the The Valley Catholic News, March 2020. For more information about the article or the The Valley Catholic News go to the website of Diocese of Brownsville.

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