Thinking Anew – A journey in community

Pope Francis writes: “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.”

Pope Francis writes: “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.”

 

In these days of the Easter season, the readings at Mass are constantly reminding us of the important role that community plays in the life of the Christian. We also get glimpses of how God the Father is related to God the Son. That might sound Iike some sort of theological nicety but everything to do with God nudges us to thinking about the importance of community.

In tomorrow’s Gospel (John 15: 1 -8) Jesus presents himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches. A tree without branches and leaves is impoverished.

Part of the reason for the current worldwide instability is that many people feel alienated and forgotten. They believe that the elites of the world ignore them and their plight. In turn they direct their anger and resentment towards the governing classes. That is understandable. No one wants to be talked-down to, no one wants to be patronised. And that so, especially in a time of instant information.

In its essence the word church means belonging to the Lord. Those who “belong to the Lord” form the community of believers.

It is sadly true that the word church these days has a negative ring to it. When people encounter the word church they tend to think of bishops and priests with an unfortunate record of keeping the truth from people. In that reading the “official church” decided what news would be good for “laity”. Such arrogance and appalling behaviour has brought the word church into disrepute.

Everything about the readings tomorrow and indeed during the Easter season stress that believers in Christ support one another. The Christian experience is best encountered in community.

Pope Francis writes: “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.”

The institutional church has in many ways become a hierarchical monster that can so easily become a haven for clerical careerists and those who want to run away and hide from society. When baptised people criticise the church of their birth they have genuine reasons for doing so.

That can change. Over the last few weeks my eyes have been opened to a font of faith, holiness and knowledge that is right in front of our eyes and has been ignored.

It happened more or less by accident. At the beginning of Lent I organised for people, who come to an early morning Mass, to say a short few words about their faith journey after the Gospel reading. One day each week during Lent someone spoke briefly during Mass. What we heard was compelling and spoke to the heart of the listener.

This proved such a success that I decided to continue with the practice after Lent with a slight change. What’s happening now is that one day during the week someone gives an insight into the Gospel of the day. Again, it is quite remarkable to listen to the insight of those who have come to join in the celebration of the Eucharist. Certainly, what I hear on that one day every week helps me on my faith journey. It is impressive and always clear and articulate. So far, I have not heard an unwise word spoken, no nonsense, no sign of cliché and not the slightest hint of spewing out the party line. It is always prepared, and as clear as day that the words are genuine and spoken with conviction and faith.

This little step-by-step practice has been a real eye opener to me as to how we can help one another in our faith.

Elsewhere in his latest writing, Pope Francis says: “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.”

Every community is of its nature made up of all its parts. If any one group throws its weight around, it is inevitable that the whole community will suffer.

Is such a reality not staring us in the face when it comes to Mother Church?

In the second reading tomorrow (1 John 3: 18-24) we read that one of God’s commandments is that “we love one another as he told us to”. And that is always done in the context of community, of a living church, as a coming together of a people of faith.

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