Procrastination is a stumbling block for personal growth in spirituality and renewal of the communities. “We cannot change things overnight, change should be brought gradually, let us first prepare people, we need to get approval from authority …” are the common comments and excuses we hear during the discussions related to change. Urgency was the characteristic of Jesus. He was uncompromising when he said, “The right time has come, the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe in the Good News”. He wanted prompt decisions and immediate actions without delay. ‘Do it now’ was his policy. He wanted radical response from people who wanted to follow him. He did not even give time for a person to go and bury his father. He said, “Let the dead bury the dead”. Simon, Andrew, James and John responded to the call of Christ promptly leaving their family, fishing boats and net. Mathew left his tax office and career promptly to follow Jesus.
Delay in taking decisions causes damage to the mission. The church leaders are unaware of the speed with which the world is changing. They often wait for consultation, formalities and approval from authorities. The result is stagnation and outdatedness which make the religious life irrelevant. The unfortunate thing is that the clergy, religious and the church leaders are not aware of their irrelevance in the fast changing world and remain like an ‘ostrich’. They are busy with formulating new rituals and rules to control the lives of people.
Credibility of Jesus not only attracted hundreds but prompted them to abandon their family, job and property to follow him. In the Church, everyone is worried about the drop in quality of vocations to religious and priestly life. Congregations are going to poor and backward regions to recruit young girls and boys. Smart and talented ones leave while they are in formation or later. Credibility of the priests, religious and those in leadership positions matter very much. No effort is done to address the contradictions and scandals which are increasing in the consecrated women and men. Bishops and leaders of the religious congregations are victims of procrastination and delay in taking decisions. They are preoccupied with outdated and unproductive routine practices dead slow in making use of the opportunities available for renewal and restructure.
Church can be relevant and religious life will be attractive if urgent steps are taken to correct the mistakes with honesty and take up actions for renewal without depending on the outdated routine formalities. Church has to accept the mistakes committed in the past with blind missionary zeal and correct the mistakes which are being committed at present at different levels. Accepting the failures and correcting the mistakes are characteristics of spiritual persons. ‘Repent and return to the way of Christ’ is the only solution. Meet the new challenges with new methods as Christ said, “Put the new wine in new wineskin”.
This is very much experienced in USM community mission. Hundreds of young students who come to USM community for training make radical changes in their habits. These changes they make mainly due to the atmosphere created with the credibility of community members and staff. Similarly priests, provincials of congregations and bishops who come for exposure and retreats to USM community resolve to change their priorities by seeing and experiencing the spirituality lived by the members. Yet there are many who delay their decision to go and experience the possibility of personal transformation and restructuring of the communities despite facing innumerable challenges. “Many prefer the old wine because the old is good”. Many like the old routine ways because the old is good and comfortable. They do not realize that they are also destructive.
The leaders of the congregations and dioceses have a responsibility beyond maintaining the routine. They should be looking for new ways of reinventing the religious life in the changing socio-political scenario. They need to adopt the attitude of Christ, “Let us go to the other side”, and explore new experiments and possibilities. They have the responsibility of developing the full potential of their members to be effective in their mission. The leaders have to make all efforts to liberate their communities from the ‘death culture’ and ‘funeral faces’. Then the Church will be relevant again and the religious life will be attractive to the new generation.
(Published on 15th April 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 16)