When we learn the phrase “Turn over a new leaf”, it will always be added that we should strive to be better persons. Changes initiate from a tugging urge, promptings of the silent voice of our in-dwelling spirit. Our conscience is like a compass pointing us back onto the path to return to our Creator. Life is a journey through many seasons. At some stage it will be time for our colourful life to take on a different hue.

Returning Catholics find themselves in a season of a major change. Often we in the Catholic Church wonder how we can invite one to return by making announcements during mass since they are not even there. Change is the art work of the Holy Spirit. These silent urgings prompted Zacchaeus to climb the sycamore tree to “catch a glimpse” of Jesus. Likewise returning Catholics, often even unknown to their conscious self, are stirred by the Spirit to glimpse, look and seek a way back. So they sometimes wander into mass, symbolically climbing the sycamore tree on their own.

Retuning to Church is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit initiates this call to return often using events in life. Ministries such as Landings, missioned to welcome returning Catholics, are formed to become the first port of call for them. Here the returning Catholic have time and environment to ponder this prompting of their in-dwelling spirit.

The path of a returning Catholic often meanders through a maze of events in life, a journey through many seasons until they begin to hear this inner voice. It is a journey littered with coincidences; the chanced meeting, the strangers who crossed path, the wander into mass met with the chanced announcement. When we get the chance to look at the complete journey, we see an intricate piece of art made possible only by the Holy Spirit.

Zacchaeus was in a fragile state. He was judged and deemed unworthy. His life journey thus far a catalogue of wrong turnings. But he is someone the Spirit is very interested in “for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost”. Likewise every returning Catholic. They too are fragile and unsure. Their life journey has taken them into a cul-de-sac. Wearied by issues in life they have run out of options clinging on only to hope. They don’t know where God is. But hope is the invisible hand of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot stand in church and judge other people’s worthiness to return. And when we complain about them we put ourselves outside love. Let us not make it tougher for the returning Catholic. Jesus showed us the way. We must embrace the lost. We ‘find’ them by being welcoming without judgment. We must open our homes and our hearts, eat and fellowship with them so that they can put their guard down and feel safe to come back in.

Often only in the autumn of our life do we change. Our life journey is nearing its end and the tug is getting stronger, the voice louder. Our colourful life is made up of many failures and many reconciliations, a life with many leaves of different colours. But we will reach a final autumn when we change one last time. If we are still away from Church, it is time to return before our last leaf fall.


Tuesday of week 33 of Ordinary Time