Where do you go to church?
We’ve all answered that question hundreds of times before. But have you ever stopped to think about what it truly means?
“I go to our parish,” is the usual response, and rightly so, because we do “go to” the church to celebrate Mass together. But as Catholics and as stewards of God’s gifts, the Church is much more than a building within which we worship. The Church, as we understand it, is the universal body of believers, the society that Christ established to help us grow in holiness, to bring us closer to Him through the giving of our time, talent, and treasure, and to lead the world to the truth.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He commissioned the disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). That is the Church’s mission in the world today — to make disciples of all nations, to bring all men to Christ.
Our parish plays a key part in that. As members of our parish, we are local representatives of the universal Church. Together, as members of this parish family, we work to carry out the Church’s mission on a local level. We worship the Lord at Mass, offering Him our praise and thanksgiving, and then we go forth on a mission to make disciples — to encourage our fellow parishioners in their lives of faith and to bring unbelievers into knowledge of the truth.
In addition to being a “local representation of the universal Church,” the parish is much like a family. We are communal beings, and we are created to live with others. So, as Catholics, we are members of the Church and, on a more immediate level, of the parish. As such, we gather together for the Eucharistic meal and we grow in faith together throughout the week, supporting one another through our participation in many parish ministries, through prayer, and through the friendships that many of us share.
In a letter written to parish priests throughout the nation, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explained the important place of the parish in the lives of Catholic faithful: “The parish is a privileged place to announce the Word of God. It includes a variety of forms and each of the faithful is called to take an active part, especially with the witness of a Christian life and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel to non-believers to lead them to the faith, or to believers to instruct them, confirm them and encourage them to a more fervent life.”
So, we ought to feel truly blessed to be a part of this parish family. We ought to make a conscious effort to be actively involved, to build relationships with our fellow parishioners and to celebrate the Mass together as often as possible — most especially every Sunday. We are then bound to grow closer to others, to grow deeper in faith and closer to Christ. Then, together as a parish family, we are bound to proclaim the Gospel to others, inviting them to a life of discipleship, thereby, building the kingdom of God.