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Father Muench Says...

Feasts remind us of call to community

June 6, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I was thinking and meditating on church – our Catholic Church, my Catholic Church. The feast days we’ve been celebrating as church during this recent weeks in the liturgical year – like Pentecost and the feast of the Most Holy Family – focus our attention on the church. These celebrations challenge us, members of the Body of Christ, to renew and strengthen our faith in God. Our hope is that there will be a new and stronger unity that is church for us.

The Gospels tell us that as Jesus prepared to leave the apostles and ascend to the Father, he taught them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. At that time, he was also teaching us that our God is a community – God the Father, the Creator, God the Son the Savior, God the Holy Spirit, that divine Spirit that fills us with love and peace and enthusiasm.

This places a demand on us as church to be a community. We are to be a family, praying together, with and for each other, and working together to transform this world in the spirit of Jesus. This challenge of community extends to a whole parish, those active in the Catholic parish life, as well as those others, Catholic and of other faiths, to pray for each other and to work together for their community. In addition, our community that is church must extend to others throughout this entire planet, with people everywhere open to praying for each other, especially those in need, and working to make all things better.

When I think of making our Catholic Church, a community, a family in our time, I think of the Second Vatican Council. The council was a moment when the Catholic Bishops of the world met together and called attention to us all to make this Catholic Church a community, praying together and working together. One of the most important documents of the council is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium.” This document presents a vision of the church in a more biblical, more historical, more dynamic way than ever before. The Church is in the world, yet, not of it.

The message of this document on the church had a profound influence on me and my own priesthood. The council called upon us as a church to be pastoral, caring and concerned about each other. This document placed a special emphasis on the importance of the laity in making our church a community. So this presented a demand on us all, clergy and laity, to form a strong community that will truly build our world into a better place.

One of the scriptural images used by the council fathers was that of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. I am certain you have heard this image presented to you, often. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came to serve, not to be served. So, the church must follow in the Spirit of our Redeemer so, like Jesus, we are to be a community that truly is formed to serve. Jesus did not hesitate to lay down his life for his sheep. So the community that is the Church must be a witness to lay down our lives; laying down our lives means living for others, as well as dying for them – for others. The church must witness to the love and sacrifice that Jesus taught us.

The Second Vatican Council also called upon us to be more ecumenical, to find unity and community with others, including people from other Christian churches, even other religions, so that we can all work together to form a community that transforms this world of ours.

As a pastor, I discovered a deep love for our Catholic Church. The Lord constantly gives us so many opportunities to work together and form community. In this way, I have discovered constant challenges to transform a parish into a community, a community that is united in bringing to our world the love of our God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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