Understanding ‘Community’ on September 11
On this day 13 years ago, when this country was attacked without warning, our nation came together as one people. In every city and town, people gathered in prayer for those who had died, been injured or lost loved ones.
We came to understand in those days how much we live in solidarity with people all over the nation and the world, many of whom live in distress, anxiety, poverty and fear. We began to appreciate anew how we must learn to support one another in our efforts for justice and peace and to implore God’s strength and grace to keep us from becoming less than what we are called to be – children of the light.
Pope Francis often calls for a culture of solidarity and fraternity which, he points out, “brings harmony to the whole of creation” and is what makes our society truly human (Prayer Vigil for Peace, September 7, 2013). He challenges the Church most emphatically to go out into the world, not to stay wrapped up within our enclaves, but for us to take the initiative and boldly go to others – especially those on the fringes of society, including those on the spiritual peripheries – and joyfully give to them the beauty of the Gospel, the amazement of the encounter with Jesus.
Taking up this call of Pope Francis and making their own the plea of Saint John Paul to “open wide the doors for Christ,” the members of our Archdiocesan Synod asked that we, the People of God, embrace all who seek to know and form a relationship with Jesus, inviting them into our spiritual home. The Synod urged that our local Church manifest the love of Christ by tending to those who suffer hardship and by welcoming the stranger and fostering a sense of community and belonging.
In addition, Synod members recommended that all of the faithful be helped to understand their baptismal calling to be not simply passive members, but active participants in this mission of the Church. Furthermore, they asked that various steps be taken by our parishes and organizations to strengthen the spiritual lives of people through fellowship, service opportunities, group prayer and other devotional practices. Not to be overlooked, they emphasized, are the homebound, the hospitalized and those with special needs. Ensuring that everyone is involved in the life of the parish and the whole of our archdiocesan community must be a priority.
As Saint Paul makes clear, we are all parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Just as in the natural body, the eyes, ears and feet, to name just a few of its members, have diverse functions, so there are diverse roles for the members of the Church. Each of us has a function and role to play, none of us is superfluous or indispensable (see Lumen gentium, 7, 33).
Our spiritual family includes people from different cultures, nationalities, languages, physical and mental abilities, and social, economic and educational backgrounds. “This is the beauty of the Church,” says Pope Francis. “Between the various components there is diversity; however, it is a diversity that does not enter into conflict and opposition. It is a variety that allows the Holy Spirit to blend it into harmony” (General Audience, October 9, 2013).
In Pastores gregis, Saint John Paul II paints a beautiful image of God’s family as his flock gathered around its pastors, who are the shepherds, and united among themselves and with the Holy Father in the living proclamation of the Gospel. It now falls to us – bishops, priests, religious and faithful laity – to take the fruits of our Archdiocesan Synod and keep them before us as our guideline and encouragement as we work together, one people living in the Spirit, to manifest better the kingdom of God among us.