Today’s gospel reading tells us that during his life here on earth Jesus of Nazareth was not looking for more followers, but for more committed followers.
I think that the churches, indeed all religions, are too focused on numbers of adherents – on numbers of followers. This is so because they consider that the greater the numbers of their members the more influence and power they have in this world.
For instance our own church requires each parish throughout the world to count mass attendance, baptisms, confirmations, marriages etc. each year. From this they can say whether the number of adherents is rising or falling. Then they can boast that they have this number or that number of followers. As in our own case, our church claims over one billion followers.
This is vanity and meaningless. For example it is not the number of relatives and friends that you can count, that is important, but the number of them who will stand by you and help you when you are in trouble.
For instance when I came to Corsham twenty years ago the official number of catholics in the parish was recorded as over 2000. This is the number the diocese sent to Rome. I don’t need to comment on such a number.
I am glad to be able to say that I think, rightly or wrongly, that most of you attend weekend mass not because you thing you are obliged to or you feel compelled to but because you want to.
When this is particularly so, like at weekday mass or senior parishioners mass or mass for a particular group, one can feel the spiritual ‘buzz’ as one might say.
To use another example; in the cold weather it is not the number of radiators in your house that matters but the degree of heat they give off.
So it is not the size of the congregation, or the size of the P.P.C. that impresses God but they’re freely given dedication and commitment.
It is good to examine my conscience as regards the why of my religious practises, not so that I stop them if I find that they are motivated by perceived obligation or fear or to merely please someone else but rather that I try to upgrade my motivation to that of gratitude to God and pray for this change.
Developing my trust and confidence in the goodness and love of my God is the surest way of doing this.