Every year, I enjoy celebrating the Week of Christian Unity. I find ever so many more ways to work toward the unity of the church on the home front of the parish family. This year's major lesson that I learned is as follows.
Six things that help keep a parish alive and well:
1) Keep a sense of humor. Living in a friendly relaxed and peaceful atmosphere does much to help keep our perspectives at a loving and working level.
2) Forgive each other's wrongs and failures. Not a single one of us is perfect, so why should we expect perfection of any of us? At the end of the day, we just learn to accept each other as we are and find the gifts hidden each under our own limitations.
3) All parish communities have their ups and downs. Every now and then we need to work at renewing our bonds by participating in moments of healing social gatherings such as Sunday coffee or a parish gathering in the parish hall. Renewing our joy in each other helps renew our trust in each other.
4) Always put the good of the parish first. The unity of the community is far more important than all the little objections or disappointments we may feel. As for a family, the welfare of the parish is more important than my private satisfaction.
5) Be cheerful when you gather with your fellow parishioners and priests. After a few struggles or trials we might be tempted to dump on members of the parish family, but instead, give each other a hug and inquire on each other's welfare. This helps to set the tone for good fellowship.
6) Never underestimate the power of prayer and the sacraments. Those who pray together, stay together. No parish family can stay united unless we invite Jesus to be at its center. Have confidence in the graces of God.
Galatians 5:25 - If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
The liberation of the Chilean miners who were trapped and entombed in the earth mine for the last 69 days brings new life and joy to the families today as one by one they see the victims rising from the womb of the earth. The whole world is impacted by the historical moment that witnesses a promise of new life for those who for a time were presumed lost forever from their loved ones.
The Holy Spirit is that mystery deep within us that longs to be set free by the efforts we make to reach within ourselves and allow the Spirit of God to change our ways and our perception of life. The Spirit comes with gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Nothing in this life can help us find the perspective on life and the vision God offers us as these gifts of the Holy Spirit come to change our understanding of each other and the events of our lives. As each gift is found and revealed through each other, there is a resurrection in our human experience not too unlike the experience of the families finding new joy and a new beginning in the rising of their loved ones from the pit of the earth.
We need look less at the rock and stones, the limits and imperfections of human form that reveals seeming hopelessness in our relationship. We need to look more and more for the manifestations of the Spirit's presence that unearth in us the wonderful inpiration of beauty we each hold for each other, a beauty that grows as we bring the blessings of the Spirit gifts to reflect upon one another.
Luke 11-37-41 - Although you cleanse the outside, inside you are full of plunder and evil.
Chalices come in all sizes and decor from very precious metal to less precious material. They come in different depths, width and height. Some chalices eventually become precious artifax of the Church's treasures. The chalice may even be blessed or consecrated, set apart for sacred worship. But until the Sacred Blood of Christ fills the cup in Eucharist, the chalice has no real definition or purpose.
We might manifest the finest quality of Christian idealism in our prayer form, our theological or ritualistic knowledge of our Christian faith. We can hold rosaries, wear crosses and be identified by varied religious symbols and belong to highly active religious groups. But until we have embraced an inner disposition that reflects the love of Christ for others, our faith is empty and our works have no real purpose.
Be filled with Christ-love and reach out with healing grace to make known the personal relationship in Christ that unites us into one Body and identifies the truth of the Church.
Galatians 4:22-5:1 The Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
We have one of two choices:
Be a Child of Slavery by letting our lives be scrutinized by the limitations of the Law and religious observances that undermine our freedom. We become children of selfishness. We seek redemption apart from Love.
OR We can be a Child of freedom who lives by the liberating love of Jesus Christ. Then we become children of the grace of Jesus Christ. His Love puts Law into action.
As children of freedom we are set free to stand firm.
As children of slavery we await the coming of the Judge who will deal with us according to the Law. The Law without love narrows our path. Love of Christ completes the Law, defines it, and opens the path to greater life.
The Law points to Love. Love defines the Law. The Law without Love enslaves us.