One Family in Christ

My dear friends,

As we respond each day to the invitation of Jesus to follow Him as intimate disciples, there will be moments along the way when Jesus challenges us, desiring to change something in our hearts. One such challenge comes when we realize how our connection to Christ connects us to each other. St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that we are united together as one body in the heart of Christ. In His heart we meet each other in a new way, as members of a new communion, a new family, which is God’s family. This is clearly the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said, “Who is my mother, my sister and brother?” Looking at his disciples Jesus said, “Whoever hears the word of God and keeps it, these are my mothers, my sisters, and my brothers.” St. Paul embraced this completely, which is why he often addressed the first Christians as brothers and sisters.

This new bond formed by grace requires a profound adjustment in our hearts, calling us to a new way of thinking about and seeing each other, just as it did for Peter, Andrew, James, John and the other disciples. Any indifference or affective distance they may have felt toward each other before they met in Christ would give way—they must now take each other into their hearts. As we would love and care for a blood brother or sister, warmly acknowledging them as our own flesh and blood, so now, in Christ, our love and concern needs to stretch and expand to each other who are born of the same Spirit, professing one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, sharing in the one Cup and Communion of the Lord.

A Jewish parable conveys this beautifully:

One day a Rabbi asked his disciples a question, “How can you tell when the night has ended and the daylight has begun?”

One disciple responded, “Is it when you can see a tree in the distance, and tell whether it is an apple tree or a pear tree?”

“No,” said the Rabbi.

“Is it,” asked another, “when you can see an animal off in the distance, and tell whether it is a sheep or a goat?”

“No, that’s not it either,” said the Rabbi.

After several failed attempts, the Rabbi finally said, “You can tell when the night has ended and daylight has begun, when you can look into the face of any man, woman or child and see the face of a brother or sister—for if you cannot yet see that, it is still night.”

One way we can allow this truth to play out in our actions is at Mass. When we gather to worship, it is so much more than the gathering of several individual families, more than the gathering of close neighbors and friendly town folk (though each of these holds a certain importance within the relational fabric of our lives). We gather as ONE FAMILY, God’s family, brothers and sisters to each other, which extends to every Christian throughout the world, as well as to the Blessed in heaven. The people sitting in front of us, behind us, and beside us are family. What are they living? What burdens and hardships do they carry? Jesus tells me that I am their brother. As their brother, maybe some time during Mass I quietly and prayerfully take them into my heart and offer a special prayer for them: “Father, I pray for this family sitting in front of me—you know their hearts and their needs—bless them in a special way at this Mass . . . Father, this young person sitting by me, she/he seems sad and heavy—help me to carry them in my heart this week and remember to pray for them . . .”

As we do little things like this to acknowledge our deep connection in Christ, how much more meaningful will the Lord’s Prayer be to each of us when we say “Our Father . . .” When Jesus taught us this prayer, it is interesting and certainly intentional that He asks us to say “Our Father” rather than “My Father.” We may not have fully realized this part of discipleship when we said “yes” to Jesus years ago, and that’s OK. The important thing is that we now let Jesus make this adjustment in our hearts. As we do, the darkness will end and the daylight begin, for we will be able to see in each others face the face of a brother or a sister.

God love you,

Fr. Steven

 

 

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