Discerning the Communion of Saints – Pastor’s Reflection (November 12, 2017)
As I write these lines on Monday morning we are reeling from yet another senseless shooting. All of a sudden people in Manhattan perceive a connection to the living and the dead in a small town in Texas. That we can embrace in prayer those we will never know gives us a window on to the mystery of the communion of saints.
How amazing that God has linked human souls in a network of interdependence that crosses the barriers of time and space which give life the shape we know. Those who have completed their journey have been commissioned to help us, and we have been entrusted with those souls whose formation God completes in the process we call purgation. We often treat this purgatory as a kind of detention, but it is also a place of promise where God completes the work He began in baptism and prepares the soul to be with Him.
The more we can see how God has designed interdependence into human life we know, the more we can rely on that network which is so far beyond our imagining. This Saturday, November 11 we remind ourselves that the international network of democracies we rely upon for peace and stability came about through the staggering sacrifices made by our veterans in the terrible wars of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps now more than ever we perceive the preciousness and vulnerability of this legacy.
Think of the cooperation and mutual concern that make it possible to pull off something on the scale of the New York Marathon. The “buy in” of government, commerce, citizens, and athletes makes a great experience for thousands who run and more thousands who cheer them on. It’s also a marvel that one can stand back and contemplate a world-wide coming-together conducted safely on our streets. How great that civil society did not run scared after the attacks of October 30. People refused to be frightened away from the public square, and so dashed terror’s hopes.
But even as New Yorkers re-claimed their streets the citizens of Sutherland Springs, Texas were assaulted in their place of worship, the setting where we would like to believe any group of Americans could have their defenses down. One single Sunday presents us with the strength and the vulnerability of present society. Everywhere the internet shows us at the same time the dazzling benefits and the terrifying damage of the radical connectedness we have achieved.
Facing such perils we might be forgiven for wanting to disconnect and find safety behind cyber and conventional ramparts. But even if we could make such a withdrawal practically, it may not be advisable spiritually. Consider that the interdependent, interconnected world order technology has facilitated on our streets and in our computers looks more like the Order among souls God has designed around the work of Christ, where even the living and the dead have been brought into reliance on each other. However serious their dangers, the new connections humans have made may further God’s plan to fulfill all things.
We can see this first in the good that has been accomplished already by a global economy, and indeed a global society. But we can also see this in the rethinking that these advances demand. How, for instance, do we bring interpersonal and social justice to this new frontier? In a more interconnected world how do we value the distinctiveness of cultures as something to offer the world rather than to be defended from it? How do we give people the sense of safety to navigate cyber streets and city streets?
Faith always nudges us to “opt in” to our times, so that as people of faith we can be part of their real improvement.
P.S. I would like to thank the many people who made our celebrations of all Saints and All Souls so
life-giving. Long-time parishioners attended the All Saints Vigil on Tuesday night and came away nourished by what the young adults provided. Many came to the end of life session sponsored by the Dominican
Foundation and reported that it was practically and spiritually helpful to them. Here I saw in daily life the interdependence that God fosters.