Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
Since Easter the Liturgy of the Word has been proclaiming the twofold effect of the Resurrection: confirming the faith of the apostles and creating the Christian community. The Gospels have been giving us the apparitions of the Risen Jesus confirming the faith of the apostles, and the First Reading, the Acts of the Apostles, creating the Christian Community. They are two sides of the same coin. To believe is to belong.
The first readings reveal that community was an integral part of the first Christians. They were of one mind and one heart. They held all things in common and shared their possessions according to the needs of each. There was a “common purse” just like the one Judas had. How different is the culture in which we live with its “privatization and rugged individualism.” It is a “do-it-yourself” culture in which everyone wants to be independent and self-sufficient.
This rugged individualism has crept into religion. So we have this phenomenon today of people being captivated by Jesus and wanting to be disciples of Jesus, but wanting nothing to do with a Church or community. Their religion is “me and Jesus.” They believe but do not belong. It is a contradiction in terms. To be a Christian is to be the member of the Christian community.
The Eucharist, through which the Risen Jesus continues his mission, also confirms the faith of the disciple and creates a community. The Eucharist which relates me to Jesus, relates me also to everyone else who is related to Jesus. The Eucharist is the source and the bond of unity. The Eucharist is the sharing of a family meal.
Unfortunately, the sense of the Church as a community and the Eucharist as the sharing in a family meal has been weakened today because the family is no longer the basic community in which meals are taken and where unity and community are fostered. The daily experience of a common meal shared with the family is slowly disappearing. The family meal is giving way to the “fast-food” culture. This “fast-food” mentality has also crept into the Eucharist. Some people come late for Mass and leave right after receiving the Eucharist, much like they would run in and get a “Big Mac.”
When the apostles asked our Lord to teach them to pray he taught them the Our Father. The first two words give us our relationship with God and with one another. God is our loving, caring Father and we are all his children, all brothers and sisters of the same family.
In the Creed we say, “We believe.” It is a personal commitment made in the community of believers. The Christian community is the greatest support group in the world. Without it we lose our roots and our identity. It is hardly possible for an individual to survive without it in this culture which is diametrically opposed to Christ.
Without community we lose our roots, our identity. This is one of the great tragedies today. Young people think that they can become themselves by breaking away from their family, church and even country and manufacture their identity on their own. They do not realize that they are turning away from the very things that give them substance and identity. So they end up with no roots, no identity, now knowing who they are, where they came from and where they are going.
Without community there is no authentic freedom. The road to freedom is through community. Only when we find warmth and love in a community do we begin to take off our masks and come down from our pedestals. Then we can reveal our true selves and admit that we are wounded and need help and forgiveness.
And the paradox of paradoxes is that community is not based on the things we prize most about ourselves, our talents, virtues, strengths and accomplishments. Community is based on our weakness, our finitude and our falls from grace. Our strengths divide us our weaknesses unite us. Prayer unites, theology divides.
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