Last week we had our monthly Middle School Family Dinner at St. Joseph’s parish. We talked about the negative and positive pressure of our peers and the value of true friends. If you take those things a little bit deeper, we were really getting at the need for good community, for a group of people who will support us and walk with us in our pursuit of holiness.
I’m currently taking a class on the history of Christian culture. We’re working our way through the early Christian letters, those of St. Paul as well as St. Ignatius, written to different regions of the Church in its infancy. There are several trends that come up over and over again, one of which is unity. Paul is always urging the Christians to unite as one and to come together as a community, in prayer, in thanksgiving and for the liturgy. He and Ignatius are always addressing the needs of the community and seeking to shepherd the group as a whole, not to shepherd each individual person by themselves.
Yes, Christ does walk with us, but sometimes we seem to forget that Christ’s body is the Church.
In our extremely individualized society, we seem to have lost touch with the true reality of our faith journey. We do not progress in isolation. I used to have the idea that our walk with Christ looked like us walking alone toward God in heaven on some mountaintop, our destination. Wrong. And the idea that we travel and Jesus comes along beside us or goes before us towards heaven is much closer picture, but still not complete. It needs some expanding. Yes, Christ does walk with us, but sometimes we seem to forget that Christ’s body is the Church. Our paths cross with other paths, with other members of Christ’s body. Our walks with God are shaped and influenced by those around us, who are all moving forward in holiness too. God chooses to work through the people in our lives, to love us through them. What’s even more, through those around us we are given the opportunity to love, to fulfill our purpose.
Let’s break this down a little, shall we? Article 27 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God”. In Scripture, 1 John 4:8 to be exact, we are told that “God is love”. Now, we’ll do a little substitution: (which will result in the closest thing to math this English graduate has done in years) if God = love, we can take our equation, that awesome quote from the Catechism up there, and plug in love wherever God is. When we do that, the statement becomes this: “The desire for Love is written on the human heart, because man is created by Love and for Love.”
Pray for your brothers and sisters, as Christ prayed and continues to pray for us.
We need a more clear understanding of “love”, as the God who is Love would have it defined. 1 John 3:16 tells about Christ’s ultimate display of love on the cross. “The way we came to know love was that He laid down His life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” To love is to give of ourselves, to sacrifice, to lay down parts of our lives; our pride, our time, our plans, anything that’s ours. We’re called to give it away. This is love, and it’s not always easy. In fact, I’d say most of the time it’s really hard. It might be helpful to have some support and encouragement from the Lord, which He just might choose to give you from the community you’re a part of…
He loves us all, to the point of giving everything, even His very life. He gave us an example to follow, showing us how to truly love, to sacrifice for the good of others. Pray for your brothers and sisters, as Christ prayed and continues to pray for us. Surround yourself with people who are striving to grow in holiness too, just as He did. Wash each other’s feet. Serve one another. Share joys and sorrows, worship and praise. Break bread and give thanks. Love and care for each other. That’s what families are for. We’re in this together, so may we strive to live our lives for the sake of the other, for our brothers and sisters, for the Body of Christ which we belong to.