So That You May Have Fellowship With Us… – Pastor’s Reflection (October 6, 2019)
Last Sunday, I hope you grabbed the special Magnificat issue for October: it was in church for the taking. If you did, its missionary focus will have touched the last five days already. Don’t miss Fr. Sebastian’s editorial on the missionary nature of the whole Church. Yes, missionaries go to far away places and we support them in kind and in cash, but they also penetrate the post-Christian West. Indeed, if you receive Holy Communion today, count yourself as mission-bound.
Each of us receives the Eucharist as comfort and consolation, as healing and connection. But the Body of Christ also impels us onward, and moments after receiving it we are sent: “Ite Missa Est,” and its English rendering, “Go forth,” remind us that each Mass marks the beginning of new growth inside and out. The Bread of Life grows life; as prayer, as communion, as mission, and all at the same time.
Prayer here refers to the connection we have with God at the very core of ourselves where no one else can be. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls this deepest place “the heart.”
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation. It is the place of covenant (#2563).
The inner life thus drives the outer, giving it shape, direction, and integrity. From the place of innermost connection, we establish communion with our neighbors. Here interpersonal intimacy bears the stamp of that within. If you know this parish you experience this truth. All around you are women and men who express their faith life with Christ by taking their place in his temple of living stones. Thus we have Catechists, Readers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Servers, Sacristans, and Greeters. There are members of Social Concerns, Hospitality, Visitation Circle, Frassati, and our Prayer Groups. Many of us are consecrated to God’s service in religious life and priesthood, in the Dominican Laity, in marriage, widowhood, and the single life. In visible generosity each manifests intimacy with God. They seek to be God centered in public and when no one is looking. The activity of the Church possesses tremendous beauty, not just because it gets things done, but because it flows from a source in the human heart penetrated by God’s love.
Prayer bears fruit in communion, and they together bring about mission. Ever since Pentecost Christians have gone forth from the Upper Room into the streets for Christ’s sake. Those impelled to spread the Gospel do more than deliver a message about beliefs and practices, they share a life. No one has better connected prayer, communion and mission than St. John in his First Letter.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have heard and seen we proclaim now to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4)
These words sound credible on the lips of an Apostle, but now reread them and see if they are not the words you could say after receiving the Eucharist with your fellow Christians. Yes, we believe in Christ, and, yes, we obey his teaching, but we also know him. The words of Scripture articulate this life and the doctrinal formulations of the Church rise on their foundation, but even sacred words are not the life. It is within, illuminating and consoling, challenging and directing. If we are faithful to the life of Jesus within us and among us, then he will speak through us.
Safe to say, our age shows scant deference to religious erudition or ritual, but the sharing of life speaks to the longings of all. We have communion across all the lines that usually divide; economics and education, gender and race, old and young. Palpably, the source of this connection is no ones’ hard work or charisma. Put this letter down and look around you: see if you are not amazed at who has been gathered with you at Mass. Celebrating the Eucharist in Manhattan we do not know most of those around the altar by name, but we know them by souls, and we share with them the most intimate of lives. Every doctrine and practice we have was nourished and brought to full expression in this sharing of life. History here gives a pledge that the healing of the Church, and her effectiveness in this age, will be conceived in, and emerge from the sharing of life we have.
Consider that each Thursday evening members of our Social Concerns Committee attend the 6 pm Mass and then cross the street to the the Park Avenue Armory to host Bingo for the women who reside in the shelter there. At such a time the committee does not talk about the faith; they call bingo numbers and give prizes. Yet the faith is visible in their fellowship. They minister as a group and their bond has its source in sacrament. All that remains is for someone to ask, “where does your happiness come from?”