TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Building Christian community

As I sit at my dining table tonight (Sunday) to pen this message, I am surrounded by the chatter and happy noise of three of my grandchildren and their Mum who are spending a week with us. I find that when the family comes to stay, I get a good dose of reality, and remember how demanding love is for all: parents, grandparents and children.

Living in community requires so much from all, and by the end of each day, my creative capacity to deal with the many people who are under our roof is stretched. So much food, noise, engagement, entertainment, consoling, advising, playing, listening, talking...

Today we had four generations at lunch with Grandad (Allen’s dad) who, at age 96, observed his great grandchildren and recognised how hard it is to parent in 2015. The expectations seem enormous and children are much more articulate in expressing their own mind. There appear to be competing value systems, and many parents are attempting to juggle this broad spectrum of parenting styles, while trying to maintain a relationship with their spouse, and working to support their families and other significant people in their lives.

I wonder how we as Christian communities respond and reach out to those who are parenting at this time, given that we espouse strongly the value of family and of supportive communities? In this post-Easter time, we will be listening to the life of the early Christian Community. We understand that an experience of Christian community strengthens our faith. Faith builds community and community builds faith. Are we able to reach out, and will these young families want us to reach out to them?

Interestingly, last week I spoke of our church as a living organism. This week as I read one of Richard Rohr’s daily reflections, I came across this piece which speaks of the same idea:

For Paul, community is the living organism that communicates the Gospel message. Paul, like Jesus, wants to change culture, not just send people away to a far-off heaven! If Christ’s cosmic message doesn’t take form in a concrete group of people then, as far as Paul is concerned, it is an unbelievable message. An autonomous Christian is as impossible as an independent arm or leg. It will never work. Arms and legs exist only as parts. Believers exist as parts of the whole, the Body of Christ. Their very existence is the state that Paul calls love. Their existence is love. When Paul says, “without love I am nothing” (I Corinthians 13:20), he implies that he is inside of another Being who is Love. We train for this by loving real, live people. For Paul, this is what he means by Christ: the participatory mystery of Jesus continued through space and time in us!

Paul sees what we eventually call the "communion of saints" as alive, real, and operative in this world. I like to call it an "energy field" created by all those who share various parts of Christ. "Salvation" is something we can participate in right here and now. No one individual is adequate to the task, yet we said they could be. No wonder so many people have either inflated or negative self-images. The paradox, of course, is that many who go to church today are not at all in the love energy field, and many who do not belong to church at all fully exemplify it!

(Richard Rohr – You Cannot Get There, You Can Only Be There)

This weekend’s gospel reading from John has Jesus stating ‘Peace be with you’ and then Jesus sends his disciples and us out. I think the reflection from Richard Rohr and my lived experience for the week invites us to be Jesus people of the Resurrection, with our families, those who worship in our parish, those who are connected to our parish schools and those who may need us to notice them in our wider community. When we manage to understand how to achieve this, truly we will be alleluia people.


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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.