September 8, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Keeping the end in mind as missionary disciples

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

I will turn 75 in April 2036, the canonical retirement age at which a bishop must submit his letter of resignation to the Holy Father. As the wise saying goes, “Always begin with the end in mind.” However, as I assured the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, at the time of my installation, my retirement letter has not yet been drafted!

Keeping the end in mind does not mean that we should dismiss the past or present. On the contrary, as eucharistic people, we should never take for granted past or present blessings of divine grace. We must learn from the past and be able to read the signs of the times in the present. These provide a framework for us to discern how best to journey forth as missionary disciples.

Pope Francis has called us to cultivate a culture of accompaniment, dialogue, encounter, mercy and care for all creation. He has made it clear that credible evangelization involves the ability to heal wounds and warm hearts. None of these are ends in themselves, but means to an end. The immediate end, of course, is personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, ultimately ending in the salvation of souls.

Jesus clearly kept the end in mind. Throughout his public ministry, it was clear that he was conscious of the end result. His miracles or signs, his teaching, his engagement with people and his responses to the people around him give evidence that he never wavered from keeping the end in mind—not his passion and death, which were only the means to the ultimate end, but his resurrection and our salvation!

Keeping the end in mind does not mean that we know how things will actually turn out. Striving to read the signs of the times by engaging ourselves in prayer, study and dialogue to frame the questions properly enables us to be pointed in the proper direction with the resources needed to realize the goal.

Our goals are not necessarily our initiatives. It is the Lord who calls and the Lord who sends. We cannot act in the place of God, but we must be ever open in mind and heart to cooperating with his divine will.

Keeping the end in mind, we are better able to discern truth based on facts rather than on emotions, to more properly balance individual freedom with the common good. Especially by reading the signs of the times and being engaged in the framing of real questions about faith and life, we are more open to seeking unity rather than perpetuating polarization, division and demonization.

Keeping the end in mind, we are able to better appreciate the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (# 12).

Keeping the end in mind, we more fully realize the beauty of the consistent ethic of life in the interrelatedness of our relationship with God, others, self and all creation.

Keeping the end in mind, we no longer perceive the poor, the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee, the sick, the elderly, the addicted, the prisoner and the disabled as “burdens,” but as human beings, our brothers and sisters. Thus, we are better equipped to safeguard the dignity of every person, defend the family, heal wounds and uphold doctrine while applying the soothing balm of pastoral care.

Keeping the end in mind, justice is tempered with the sweetness of mercy and we have little to fear or to hold us back as missionary disciples proclaiming the joy of the Gospel, the kingdom of God at hand, to the very margins and fringes of society. This motivates us to cultivate the virtues of courage, humility and generosity in proclaiming the beauty, goodness and truth of faith in the Holy Trinity always present and at work in our midst.

Keeping the end in mind necessarily requires us to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered. And when we keep the end in mind, as Jesus commanded us, through love of God and neighbor, all else falls into place!

The call to mission and holiness is directed toward the end goal, celebrating and relying upon the presence of the Lord all along the way.

With that ultimate end in mind, striving to be proactive rather than reactive to all that lies ahead, may we leave no stone of opportunity or challenge left uncovered, no soul left behind, throughout central and southern Indiana and beyond, proclaiming the Good News.

After all, with the help of God’s grace, there is much work for us to do together before I turn 75! †

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