With the uncertainty and pain of the coronavirus pandemic compounded by the injustice, suffering, and division rampant in the world today, the need for compassionate outreach and pastoral creativity is ever more apparent. Entering into an intentional process of pastoral creativity begins with a commitment to engage in movements of prayer, reflection, and attending to others that can open your heart to the ways God works within and through you.
Cultivating a posture of humility begins with creating a space in prayer where you draw ever closer to Christ, letting go of that which holds you back from fully embracing the call to discipleship. Growth in the spiritual life requires you to enter into silence and solitude and ask Jesus to show you where you need to release your expectations and abandon your need for control. In this space, you encounter an invitation to surrender yourself to what God can do with you if you truly trust in him and open yourself up to possibilities you can’t yet imagine for your community, your relationships, your life.
Freed from limited expectations, you are better able to recognize the truth that everything you receive is gift. In his post-synodal exhortation Christus Vivit, Pope Francis says:
Enter into this space of silence in prayer to savor the consolation of God. Cultivating dispositions of openness, courage, and hope will allow you to encounter God on God’s terms and be guided by God on your journey. As you reflect on the place of prayer and reflection in your own life, ask yourself: what practices could I develop to cultivate the silence and solitude to encounter God?
Grounded in God’s love and mercy, the next movement is reflection upon your own gifts and passions. In this movement, as you reflect, remain open to the possibility of allowing yourself to be surprised by what you might discover or see in a new light. Utilizing tools such as Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts: A Toolkit for Faith Formation developed by the McGrath Institute, or other popular tools such as Strengthsfinder can help you to gain additional insight and perspective on how God has uniquely created you.
Exploring your strengths and interests points you toward a deepening sense of your own vocation. Your gifts and talents are not for yourself, but are meant to be shared. Identifying these gifts allows you to offer them back to God to be transformed in service to others. Ask yourself: what did I learn about myself through reflecting on my gifts and passions? Were there any surprises?
With a clearer sense of who you are and who you are called to become, turn your focus to the communities that call for your attention and compassion. Grounded in God’s love and mercy, you must exercise intentionality and humility to see those people who are often harder to notice: those on the margins, the invisible, the overlooked in your midst.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us everywhere. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away and most indifferent. The Lord seeks all; he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love. (Christus Vivit, §177)
In prayer, ask God to call your attention to a particular community and evoke a humble curiosity and desire to listen to their needs. Ask yourself: what community do I feel drawn to focus on serving through pastoral creativity? What makes me curious about this community? What is my disposition toward them?
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