There was a moment during the recent Napa Institute conference where I found myself looking…
Living heaven focused: Making a ‘five-year plan’
Over the last few months, my priests have been meeting with small groups of people to begin praying and brainstorming ways to improve our parish. And more recently, they opened up the discussion to the larger community.
After Mass one Sunday, I attended one of these “town hall meetings” at my parish. I had already been included in an impromptu meeting after our young adult group one week when the priests invited us over to the rectory, but I wanted to hear what others from the parish had to say. In both gatherings, we were asked the same questions: What are we doing well, what could we improve on, and what are our dreams for what the parish could become?
During the parish-wide meeting, I was placed in a group of parishioners of varying ages and backgrounds, some who had been at the parish for 75 years, all the way down to myself, who only officially registered in December but has been attending for over a year.
While the discussion was fruitful, the event itself made me proud to call this parish my spiritual home. After moving to the area, I quickly landed at St. John the Baptist because of its welcoming community, wonderful priests and easy-to-join ministries. But even then I noticed an eagerness to improve and a vibrancy that our Church so desperately needs. These meetings reiterated my first impressions and reaffirmed the reason I have gone deeper into this community.
Since these meetings, a question has landed on my heart: What is my five-year plan?
I began praying through the same questions. What am I doing well in my life — spiritually and physically? What areas do I most need to improve? And what are my dreams for the person I hope to be one day?
These are the questions we must ask ourselves. As the new year approached, I wrote about how we should ask God what his resolutions are for you over the next 12 months. But maybe we need to go further. Maybe we need to look at the bigger picture.
First, let’s remind ourselves of an important truth. We are all called to holiness and sainthood: “[Christ] united her to himself as his own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness. … However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others” (Lumen Gentium, No. 39).
This means that we are all called without exception to rise above what the world expects. This means not only are we called to holiness but, with God’s grace, we can reach heaven. For, as St. Paul writes, nothing can keep us from the love of God (cf. Rom 8:38-39) — except ourselves.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to turn our eyes from heaven. But if we set our mind to it, we have a God who will do anything to help us be with him for eternity.
So as we dive into Lent, maybe it’s time to set some bigger goals, to look at our lives from a bird’s-eye view and really see what we are doing well, where we need to improve and what goals and dreams we have for our lives. Often these hopes and desires are the very ways God wants us to serve him and become living witnesses of his presence in our world — whether in our vocations, apostolates or communities.
Now, a lot can change in five years; I understand this. So I’m not saying that you have to write out an extensive list of exactly what you wish to happen in that time. But if we don’t ask these questions and make smaller goals that we can accomplish in the more immediate future — being better at daily prayer, making time for family, being honest with the desires of our hearts that we often push aside or dismiss — then not much changes.
Maybe the better question is: Am I living my life focused on heaven? Because, if so, you already have your five-year plan and beyond.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor.