Over thanksgiving I came down with a pretty nasty cold. My family treated me in their characteristically sympathetic manner. They griped at me for not doing more cardio. Bedside manner aside, I know my family is correct. In the three years I’ve been Catholic I’ve lost about 100 pounds (cardio). This process has proven to me the more time I spend forcing air in and out of my lungs the less time I spend sick. Somehow when I actually become sick I feel no desire to actually go to the Gym. I bring this up, because I have found community to have a similar problem.
In The House That Grace Builds and Grace Made Man I tried to describe the kind of community Christ intended, a community in which its members are so intimately connected they act a single body. That’s going to require a spiritual workout for all of us. So let us be honest, is anyone feeling up to this? I know I’m feeling a little ill myself. Being out of shape will get your body infected with illness. Being out of Christ can get our communities infected by sin. And working out in those communities well it just feels lifting waits with the flu. What can make a community feel that way? Well how about-
People like to be liked. At an early age, most of us learn that being liked is less about who we are and more about who we appear to be. The scripture tells us only Christ can judge your heart. Men will only judge what they see. So, many people learn to form new bonds by showing others what they want to see.
Deceit doesn’t build community it builds mistrust. You will never feel welcome when people are welcoming a misrepresentation of yourself. You will not learn to trust others if you know you cannot be trusted. Where deceit reigns faith dies. Is it any wonder how many people leaving parishes today sight a hypocritical and two-faced church?
2 Corinthians 12 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
If we want to a true connection we must first reveal our true selves. That doesn’t mean just displaying our strengths but also boasting in our weaknesses. Those affected by the sin of deceit may find these ideas naive and impractical. It is true not everyone is charitable to honesty.
But the grace of the spirit has presented us a reason to Hope. Christ has seen all our truth and has chosen to love us. There is reason to hope his body here on earth can do the same. If we answer Christ, he will give us the grace to accept our mutual brokenness. It is only when we can admit our brokenness that we truly boast in our redemption.
Jack Jezereal said the opposite of love is fear not hate. From an early age we are unwittingly taught whom we should trust and whom we should fear. We are taught to fear people who do not look like us. We are taught to fear people who do not live near us. We are taught to fear people who do not think like us.
Fear makes us hide in comfortable parishes where everyone dresses, prays and votes the same. We call this ‘organic’ and convince ourselves it has to be that way. The truth is, Christian love is either all inclusive or it has been excluded. A parish that only welcomes those who dress, pray or vote their way will turn Christ away seventy times seven times a day.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
As someone who has done battle with social anxiety and won, I can testify the way you conquer fear is to hit it between the eyes it is watching you with. You must choose to leave your comfort zone. You must search unknown valleys until you can find in those valleys the spirit that unites all of Gods children. In plain words, go to the people who scare you most and serve them!
If you are infected by fear, that valley looks impossible to cross. But the grace of the spirit can present us the faith to cross. Our Shepherd has been faithful to us until his death. Now that gift is ours to return. If we look for his Staff it will lead the way. If we call on his Rod it will protect us.
Sin shifts the way we see one another. It can cause us to see each other not as brothers and sisters but as vessels from which we take what we desire. We commit Lust anytime we see another as a mechanism for our gratification alone. It is a very common sin today. And it is pure poison to the body of Christ.
When the bonds of community become infected with lust they leave deep scars to whomever they hold. Homes of love and acceptance will become dungeons of abuse and paranoia. Not only will individual members flee apart but it can become permanently more difficult for new organs to take form.
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Strict adherence to a code of conduct is not sufficient protection from lust. To form pure loving relationships as God intended we must return to the innocence that we were given in the beginning. We need a new beginning. We need a new birth. Those affected by lust will find that a little to amazing. But the grace of the spirit will present us this mercy no matter what our conduct has become. This mercy becomes our gift to give back to the world. Living this spirit of mercy is our real protection from poor habits. In the end it is absence of certain actions
that is critical. What is critical is every action we choose to take are taken in our new spirit of love.
The muscles of Christ can only be building or atrophying. When you tire from tightening the bonds of community, people begin to drift apart. Sometimes we just lose the energy to do it. Or worse, we buy into the modern lie it isn’t that important anyway. More communities will die with a whimper then a bang.
John4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Community needs a life force to sustain it. For this the spirit presents us with her greatest grace of all the, the gift of love. Our love alone will someday run dry, but Christ has poured a never ending supply of his living love upon the world. When we drink from Christ’s deep love for us we will overflow with the energy we need. With Gods help we can forever return this gift to the community that needs it.
After a visit to the doctor and rest I returned to the Gym today. It wasn’t my best workout. I was still sore and awkward but the doctor’s medicine helped a lot. And so it is with community. We will not learn how to love overnight. There is always more work to do. But our Doctor in heaven has all the right prescriptions for our weaknesses. That is at least if we ask him for them. So my challenge to you for this post is to take some time and prayerfully consider what maybe limiting your connection to the body. Then ask God for his medicine.