Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Declining Church and Your Mission

Christianity is on the decline.  That’s the census finding.  While Christianity is still the most common religion in Australia only 43.9% of respondents identified as Christian in the 2021 census compared to more than half in 2016 and 61% in 2011. Almost 40% of the population responded “no religion” on the 2021 census, an increase of 10% in the past five years.  According to the media, this should alarm the Church.  But Rev Jensen, rector of the Anglican Church at Darling Point argues differently.  He thinks that though fewer people associate themselves with any Church, the number of people believing in God or a transcendental Being is steady (Sydney Morning Herald, 29/6/2022).  Our Archbishop Anthony thinks that there are more young people becoming active in the Church lately, a view contrary to the census data.  But we cannot ignore the census which seems to propose that Australia is on the road to becoming a pagan territory.  Australia, more than ever, is in need of missionaries and evangelisation.  For some time we have been seeing this happening.  Does that mean that the parishioners are prioritising the mission of spreading faith?  A study done in the USA reveals that the Catholics are far from it.

The late Avery Cardinal Dulles of USA made an observation.   Asked whether spreading the faith was a high priority of their parishes, only 6 percent of them answered affirmatively, and only 3 percent of the Parishes participated in local evangelical activities. The story of the Australian Church, I suspect, is not much different.   It is easier to find volunteers for social outreach than for the mission of spreading the faith.

We all want to be committed to the welfare of people.  Is that enough in our life?  There is a profound dimension to life, the Kingdom of God, which seems to be oblivious to an increasing number of people.  Jesus sent Seventy Two of his disciples as missionaries to the villages and told them “Say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Cf Luke 10:9). The curing of the sick and all other welfare activities the disciples had done were to lead the villagers to the central message, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you’.

Note that it is not just the chosen twelve Apostles who were sent; Jesus chose seventy two ordinary disciples to spread the good news about the Kingdom of God.  It is an indication that the Lord is calling all his followers to participate in the mission of spreading the faith.  It is the duty of all Disciples of Christ.  As a parish community what is the best we can do for the mission of spreading the faith?