Practicing what we preach
BY FATHER J. RONALD KNOTT
All bitterness, fury, shouting, reviling and malice must be removed from you. Ephesians 4:31
As we went into the new millennium, the late Blessed John Paul II made the observation that the great challenge facing the church is to make itself a home and school of communion, if it wishes to be faithful to God’s plan and to respond to the world’s deepest yearning.
God knows that the world could use some help in this area with all the “bitterness, fury, shouting, reviling and malice” going around, but how can the church ensure and safeguard communion when it too seems to be infected with the very disease it is called to heal?
If we were to claim to be “a home and school of communion,” would not the world say to us, “Physician, heal thyself?” To teach the world, we must be the first to practice what we preach!
The late Blessed John Paul II made that very point when he wrote, “before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated person, and pastoral workers are trained, wherever families and communities are being built up.”
A “spirituality of communion” means contemplating the mystery of the Trinity dwelling within us and in our brothers and sisters. A “spirituality of communion” means the ability to think of our brothers and sisters as “those who are part of me.” This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship.
A “spirituality of communion” implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God; not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a “gift for me.”
A “spirituality of communion” means, finally, to know how to “make room” for our brothers and sisters, bearing “each other’s burdens” and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.
Blessed John Paul II goes on to say, “Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, masks of communion rather than its means of expression and growth. Consequently, the new century will have to see us more than ever intent on valuing and developing forums and structures which serve to ensure and safeguard communion.”
A “spirituality of communion” requires that we be able personally to know the depths of the human heart, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to be affable, hospitable and sincere in our words, to be prudent, discreet and generous, to be quick to understand, forgive and console.
God knows this angry world desperately needs a “spirituality of communion.” Its time has come!