Jesus’ example at center of U.S. Bishops’ new strategic plan

By Father Matthew Wertin
The infamous Titanic had only 20 life boats, capable of safely carrying just over 1,000 passengers, despite the fact that the fateful voyage included in excess of 2,200 people aboard. When the ship started to sink, some brave men made attempts to help women and children first, but for the most part everyone was trying to save themselves. Many of the lifeboats ended up only half-way filled, as they quickly rowed away out of reach from the other survivors in the water, mainly due to a fear of being swamped by drowning victims. In fact, only two lifeboats made any effort to return to the wreck and retrieve others, some at the cost of their own lives.

On Calvary, three times Jesus was mocked and told: “Save yourself!” His very identity was under attack, because many people had a very different idea of what a king should be; like someone who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, because he has the power to get everything he wants. If he is a king, then why wouldn’t he use his power to do something about the suffering to save himself? By accepting his Passion and Death, Jesus gives witness: “I didn’t come here to save myself. I came here to save you. I won’t come down from the cross, because I love you too much to leave you all alone and without hope in the mess and pain of your own sinfulness.”

This is the opposite of those who would try to escape a difficult situation, just to save their own skin. There is a word for people like that, “coward,” and Jesus is no coward. As a Good Shepherd, he goes about seeking those who would accept his help and then dare to join him in the great rescue mission. Our own local shepherds, the bishops from throughout the nation, have come up with a new strategic plan for the next three years. The theme is, “Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People with Joy,” with the goal of offering a sustained and compelling witness to the power of Christ’s love in the world (c.f. usccb.org).

The plan is centered on five strategic priorities, and is aimed at encountering those in need, bringing them hope, and nurturing them spiritually and physically. One of the priorities is, “Human life and dignity: Uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death with special concern for the poor and vulnerable.” Since January is such a major opportunity to do great things for LIFE, please make sure to stay connected to the various avenues of communication from the diocese, especially Facebook and email blasts, in order to take action in positive ways that will truly make a difference.

One of the wonderful things that makes us disciples of Jesus is that, like him, we’re not focused on saving ourselves. We would much rather spend our time helping others in greater need.