The unity of prayer and purpose… its intensity …could be felt throughout our prayer space.”
–Marilyn (parish mission participant)
This past Advent, I had the opportunity to lead a mission for Notre Dame of Mt. Carmel parish in New Jersey. In the course of this ministry, I travel a great deal across the world and see Catholic life in a lot of contexts. Notre Dame of Mt. Carmel parish was truly unique. Their staff and parish leadership, including their pastor, are firmly committed to transforming their culture and becoming a community of missionary disciples–and they are beginning to change how they live as parish to make room for this new vision.
They reached out to us at M3 Ministries because they wanted a mission that would help their parishioners experience a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. To that end, I spent two evenings breaking open the basic gospel message with them.
On the first night, we focused on the Father’s delight in us–the reality that we were created by a perfect Father who called us into existence so that we could experience His love and live in an eternal communion with Him and with all those united in Him. To hear about the goodness of our Father and explore that goodness in Scripture and Tradition is a powerful thing. So often, we carry wounded images of God based upon our earthly experience and relationship. Hearing this part of the gospel message offers us an opportunity and a challenge to allow ourselves to be loved by the One who created us for love.
The second evening, we spent time reflecting on the reality of sin and separation from God, but also the great gift of the Father in Jesus Christ, whose life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension broke the power of sin over creation and over our own lives. The Father, being good and fiercely in love with His children, could not let us remain separated from Him. So, He sent His Son Jesus to call each of us back by name.
We also explored the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon God’s people in baptism. I also had the opportunity to share my own testimony of how the power and presence of the Lord saved and transformed my life. Finally, I invited everyone present to identify and surrender to the Lord those obstacles that kept us from receiving the Father’s love in Jesus Christ.
The power of the Kingdom of God, the love and ministry of the Holy Spirit were truly present. There were many kinds of healing that occurred in the parish Church that evening–a number of people experienced not only inner healing, but physical healing as well. Most importantly, we all experienced a truly profound encounter with God–an encounter that changed many lives.
These moments of God’s Kingdom breaking through and touching us in supernatural ways are not rare. I see the hand and the presence of God often as I travel and share the gospel message. Lives changed, forgiveness granted (in situations so grim it would be unlikely that anyone would offer forgiveness), wounds healed, bodies made whole, peace given, mercy received, hearts transformed–these are the hallmarks of God’s Kingdom and the fruit of Jesus’ ministry and mission on earth . . . the same mission that He gave to His Body, the Church!
In future newsletters, I will continue to draw attention to the remarkable ways that God is moving among His people and the powerful experiences that ordinary Catholics are having.
At the end of the parish mission, Fr. Paddy O’Donovan summarized the experience of the mission and placed it in the context of the parish’s intentional focus on renewal: ”
“Folks, you know that we are on a path of renewal in our parish… In a nutshell, our renewal is rooted in what we have experienced yesterday and today: the power of God’s Holy Spirit. The renewal of our parish is simply about placing our lives in the hands of God, in the hands of Jesus Christ. Renewal is about having this God-given relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what the Church is in need of, that’s what we’ve experienced — what I’ve experienced — these past two days in a special way…”
Thank you to every M3 Community Member whose prayers support the mission and ministry of this organization and make it possible for parish missions like this to happen! God is truly good!