That's the question I'll be asking at all Masses as the parish holds its annual Stewardship Fair. I might even look directly at some of the faces before me to make it clear it's not a rhetorical question.
Some years back, a young man told me that he asked his parents this question as they drove home from the Protestant church they attended every Sunday, and which he deeply loved even as a seven-year old.
"Why do we go to church?," he asked innocently from the back seat. After an awkward pause, his father said "I don't really know." And they never went back. For months the lad cried himself to sleep every Saturday night. (Today, he is a devout Catholic.)
So back to the question. Why are you here today?
Our Stewardship Fair can help you find answers--because of the strong community we have here at Christ the Redeemer; because of the fine schools we sponsor; because of our interesting programs of Bible study.
And they'd all be wrong answers.
But instead of putting anyone on the spot, let me share my answer to the question. I am in church today because "Jesus came into the world to save sinners" and I am one of them.
I know this is the right answer, since I stole it from St. Paul's words to Timothy in our second reading.
And I know that it's the only right answer to the question "why is our parish here and what is it for?"
In the midst of a busy week, I spent seven hours on Friday listening to Sherry Weddell, the author of an amazing book that says it's high time everything we do and say in our parishes comes back to discipleship. Discipleship is a churchy word, but its meaning is simple: following Jesus.
This remarkable woman helped me to see our annual Stewardship Fair in a new light. This showcase of parish programs and ministries is about ways of following Jesus. Stewardship itself--the way of life that puts our time, talent and treasure at God's disposal--is about following Jesus.
If we try to form stewards who aren't disciples, we won't get far. But if we form disciples in our parish, we will have stewards who will do things we haven't even dreamed of.
We invite you to go directly to the gym after Mass to see what's happening in our parish and to have some pierogis cooked by our World Youth Day pilgrims, now experts after their time in Poland. Take a look at the energy and vitality of this community of faith, and ask where you might get involved, if you're not already.
Some of our parish activities help you just to test the waters of discipleship. Others help you take the plunge.
But wherever you are on your faith journey, have no doubt about it: everything you'll see in the gym, everything we do at Christ the Redeemer, is connected by a single fact: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. By following him, we hope to have a personal experience of that faith and love St. Paul writes about today and to receive Christ’s overflowing gifts of grace and mercy throughout our lives.