This month the Archdiocese of Sydney marks the second anniversary since the launch of the Archdiocesan Mission Plan Go Make Disciples
One of the recurrent teachings of Jesus in the Gospels is his call to the disciples to bear fruit, in and out of season.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ condemnation of the barren fig tree takes place on his way to the temple courts (Mk 11:11-14). Within earshot of the disciples, he curses the figless tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”.
In the parable of Luke’s Gospel Jesus’ call remains unchanged; however here he extends the mercy of time though without lessening the seriousness of his challenge, “If it bears fruit next year, well and good, but if not, you can cut it down” (Lk 13:9).
Over the past years the privations of the pandemic and the hard reality of declining participation in worship and community life have raised the sharp question of how to best cultivate anew the fruit of changed lives in Christ.
As expressed in the Archbishop’s plan for mission, Go Make Disciples, the wider culture in which the seeds of faith call to be planted and prosper has changed decisively, as it has in previous chapters of the Church’s story.
However, rather than being a burden, the urgent call to evangelisation today is a gift that can rejuvenate and renew our parishes, schools, chaplaincies and families – if it is embraced with joy as no less than a sharing in Christ’s own life and universal mission.
As Pope Francis preached recently, “The paradox of mission is you can only go forth if you remain”. In other words, faithfulness and fruitfulness are inseparable; each invites the other.
In this year’s gatherings at conferences and parish days on renewal, celebrations and seminars on marriage and family life, in the formation of young adults and parish leaders, the call of the Church to be faithfully centred on Christ and move at the same time has been embraced by Sydney Catholics with intent and passion.
There has been a growing awareness that simply ‘switching on the lights’ and expecting people to come to us, or assuming that all of our past pastoral practices are ‘taking care of it’, is not yielding the harvest we might desire in this new terrain for the Gospel. New ardour is needed, a fervent authenticity in the Gospel, as well as new methods and expressions that bring lives closer to the heart of Christ in the midst of the Church for the sake of the world.
The openness of Catholics in Sydney, our clergy, lay leaders and parish teams, to cultivating intentional discipleship in community, equipping attenders to be apostles, and ‘preparing the way’ for others far from the Gospel or the Church to encounter Christ anew – or even for the first time – has been inspiring to witness throughout the year.
The many thousands who have taken up opportunities for evangelisation, growth in leadership, community, formation and worship in this second full year of Go Make Disciples have been a sure and hope-filled sign of the Holy Spirit at work in our Church.
We give thanks for the leadership of Archbishop Anthony, the constant support of our Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation Bishop Umbers, and the hardworking teams within the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation and wider Archdiocese for making these opportunities possible for the people of God in Sydney.
We end this year in thanksgiving to the Lord who alone can produce the “thirty and sixty and hundredfold” in the good soil of the faithful, and in gratitude for the thousands of Sydney Catholics who share each day in the abundant life and mission of the divine sower.
We look forward to the promise of the new year, to a focus on equipping leaders for the mission of making disciples, and wish you, your families and communities a blessed Christmas and ever more the joy of the newborn Christ.