I want to ask you a question. When I say the words ‘The church’ what image comes to your mind? The church. What do you think of?
For me the first image I get is of St. Peters in Rome. It is so wrong. The church is not buildings or structure or bureaucracy, the church is not the Pope or Bishops or Priests or Sisters. The church is you and me and every other baptized Catholic. We were church long before we were allowed to build places fit for the worship of God. We were church when people gathered in one another’s homes to celebrate the breaking of the bread and listen to the word of God and teachings of the Apostles.
Our second reading –Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written at a time in the first century when the Christian community in Corinth was breaking into factions – I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollo. Paul was determined to challenge these divisions by his insistence that we all are of Christ and no one else. For Paul the church, the Christian community is all about men and women bound together by the Holy Spirit, it’s about men and women gifted in different ways for the common good of the community but especially the poor. To be the body of Christ means to be dependent upon Christ and subject to his Lordship.
We speak of the church as being holy. But the holiness of the body of Christ comes first of all from the holiness of Christ and then from the holiness of we the members of Christ’s body. That’s why we try to live this Mass in the lives we live, the work we do, the service we give and the prayers we pray, our ways of growing in Christ. We share in Christ’s holiness when we welcome our refugee families, when we support the Good Shepherd Centre and Rosalie Hall. The church is holy when we mend fences within our families and respect other people as they are.
We all know of the sexual abuse scandals that have damaged our church these past and present years. The crimes of priests and the cover up by bishops have wounded us all. When one member of the body suffers the whole body suffers.
Spiritual rugged individualism is not for Christians – we are family. That’s why we pray for and work for the re-union of all Christian communities.
Just as we should see our church as being made up of men, women and children forming one community of life, love and service so Pope Francis is asking us to see our relationship with Mother Earth in the same way. We human beings are one member of the whole communities of life on this planet. As I’ve said before ‘ we did not weave the web of life, we are a strand in the web, we depend on every other strand in this web and what we do to the web, be it for good or for ill we do to ourselves. Everything comes home to roost. The church is a community of life, love and service. As members of the human family we are called to live simply that others may simply live and work for the healing of our common home.
Pope Francis is asking us to see ourselves in that same relationship with Earth as we have in the church, a relationship of life, love and service. As in the church so as human beings we are kin, we are family.