Pope Francis has proclaimed that “The Paschal Mystery”—Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection—“is the beating heart of the Church’s mission.” This mystery is front and center during the observance of Lent and celebration of the Easter season.
If your parish is looking for a way to draw people into a missionary mindset all year long, small faith-sharing groups, also referred to as small communities, are uniquely suited to help people reflect on and incorporate aspects of this mystery into their lives and the life of the parish.
- The small group helps people reflect on the mysteries of Jesus’ life. Small groups invite participants to engage with Scripture on a regular basis throughout the year. As people reflect together and share on the Gospel, they encounter Christ in God’s Word and in the community. By coming to believe more deeply in what Jesus did in his life, they develop a richer appreciation of the power of the cross and look to put his mission into practice. For example, Colleen’s small group of seven years was very supportive during the time her husband was dying. Members of the group took care of their family's household needs and held the group meetings in her home so she did not have to leave her husband. Moved by this experience, today Colleen is an active promoter of small groups in her parish.
- Through faith sharing, people hold a mirror up to their lives. As people who are seeking to live Christian lives share faith, they reflect on their values and approaches to life in light of the Gospel. Frequently in these settings, people are touched profoundly because they become aware of the discrepancies between their own lives and the call of the Gospel. They may come to recognize gaps in personal morality and make the connection with social morality, such as seeing their desire for material goods as reflecting the excessive consumerism in society. Perhaps only in the gentle but conscientious approach used in a small-group setting, will many people allow themselves to be confronted with such issues.
- Participants learn to choose freedom and liberation from sin. Jesus’ total self-giving is not a point simply to be taught. It must become a part of our lived experience. The gospel message and the shared response to the Gospel in small faith-sharing groups challenge participants to die to self, to surrender completely, and to commit without reservation to Jesus and his way of life. This commitment calls for greater responsibility in the works of charity and justice.
- Small communities support living in the power of the Spirit. As they figuratively die to their sinfulness and live in ever greater fidelity to the commandments and moral teachings, members of small groups come nearer to experiencing the fullness of the power of the Spirit. The community of believers discovers how to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in meeting the needs of society. Numerous small groups have become initiators of parish ministries for those who are poor, home bound, or marginalized by starting food pantries, home visitations, literacy programs and more.
When we come together to live the Christ-life, sharing in the suffering, dying, and rising that Jesus experienced, we can help build the kingdom of God among us in our time.
Read more about Why Mission Matters to Evangelization.