05-12-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Gabriel Terrill

Dear Friends,

When we look at the state of our world today, we can easily get discouraged. There are many reasons for this but one reason that is common and perhaps most apparent is the division we see in the world. We are technically more connected than ever before, more aware of our fellow man’s existence yet we seem to be just as divided as ever. Even within the Church we see this division. Division is nothing new, it’s been around since the fall of Adam and Eve when Adam blamed Eve for his sin. However, what we see in our modern era is a radical individualism, an idea that we must be reverenced as unique and distinct from all others and that our individual identity is more important than anything else.

We are in fact unique and live as individuals created out of love by God as we hear in Psalm 139, “I praise you, because I am wonderfully made.” However, this radical individuality focuses on the individual as the end all, be all of who we are. This seemingly runs contrary to our Christian anthropology since we recognize that through baptism we die with Christ and are risen with Him, taking on a new identity in Christ. When we are Baptized, we become part of the Body of Christ; unique as individuals, yes, but part of the whole community of believers. Considering this, there is a greater good, a greater identity in Christ that goes beyond ourselves as individuals. We could call this the common good shared among Christians. In this there is a sense of communal sharing of goods among those who follow Christ as His disciples. As a community in Christ we can help or hurt the whole and our victories and struggles are shared. When we find success, we rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we encounter hardship and sorrow, we assist each other in persevering in hope.

This certainly sounds well and good, but it is easier said than done. How easy it can be to detach from the Church or abandon ship when things get difficult. Many leave their particular parish community or even the Church for various reasons, and as we find ourselves in such a divided, individualistic society, we lose hope in fighting for the good of our community. However, if we look to the roots of early Christianity, to the early years of the Church we see that there was a common sense of unity in Christ. Christian brothers and sisters took care of each other, encouraged one another, and strove to support their community, not only by means of funds, but in their giftings and talents uniquely given to them by God. We are about this in the Acts of the Apostles as follows:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32-35)

There is a certain sense of peace and security in the communal identity of the early Christians even as they were persecuted and risked death by living out their faith. There are instances of this model of living in common such as religious orders whose members take a vow of poverty and rely on the community to provide for them.

Unfortunately, we cannot all live in such a way as pooling together all our resources and relying on the community to provide for our every need. We see the flaws and abuses that come from such a model in the secular institutions of communism in the 20th century. We can, however, still grow in our sense of community and the common good as one Body of Christ, one Church, by nurturing and supporting our community here at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We can begin by recognizing that this is our Parish, this is our Community, we belong here and as part of this Community of Christ we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We currently have a unique avenue to exercise our involvement in the community through our Parish Census which gives us the opportunity to share our thoughts and ideas with how we can grow as a parish community and support the communal and spiritual needs of our people. Along with the Census we can continue to support our community by remaining involved with the parish community and its many ministries and liturgies and by praying for greater unity in our Parish, in the Church, and in the world.