I borrowed the title of this post from a book I am currently reading: A Church with Open Doors: Catholic Ecclesiology for the Third Millennium edited by two of my “heroes”, Richard R. Gaillardetz and Edward P. Hahnenberg (Liturgical Press, 2015). The book is a collection of nine essays that are the outcome of a meeting at Boston College last September, which brought together 40 leading North American scholars in order to discuss the future of Catholic theological reflection on the church.
The essays are particularly relevant this week as we anticipate the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. Quoting the editors in the introduction,
For [Pope] Francis, a church that is focused in on itself fails to respond to the call of the Gospel. With doors and windows closed, such a self-referential church becomes pale and sick. Instead, Francis has re-fashioned the new evangelization as a call to a missionary discipleship animated by solidarity with the poor and marginalized and a commitment to building a culture of encounter. (p. xii)
In reflecting on these words and the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, I ask myself, “Will I be open to the Gospel message that Francis will proclaim this week? Do I accept the vision of church that Francis describes?”
We often hold onto our own visions of church because they satisfy our own needs for comfort and reassurance. We look for God in church when our personal lives are in a twist but often do not recognize the importance of praying with a community of believers. We find it difficult to turn outward in service to others when we are so focused on our own lives.
Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to missionary discipleship, that is, to open the doors that lead to dialogue with others who may not look like the people who have traditionally been in our churches. He wants to redefine the church and does so in both his words and in his actions. However, Francis cannot do it alone. May we all listen with open hearts to the ways in which God’s message will come to us this week.