V Sunday of Easter – 18 May 2014


What do we think of when we hear the word “Church”? An institution that we look at sympathetically but from afar? A building perhaps that is dear to us? But how many times we think of ourselves in relation to the Church, of ourselves as the baptised who form an integral part of her? The Church refers to us, “like living stones built into a spiritual house”, as the second reading has just reminded us.


Before it is ever an structured institution, the Christian community is made up of concrete individuals, brought together in Christ, whose memory they keep in listening to his Word and in the celebration of the Eucharist. For this reason it is nice to think of the parish as a school of life, or better, a school of love. In this way the desire to be part of the Christian grows within us and we try to describe it in the daily liturgy, through three words: vocation, family and charity.


The parish is a community of the called. We do not choose who we shall be with. We are not a gathering of like-minded individuals or common interests, as if we belonged merely to a club. We are together today as we have ever been for one reason only: Jesus has brought us together, to be with him and, at the same time, to be with one another. The Christian community is, then, a place of vocation, given to us when we are least aware of it, namely in our baptism, but also when we respond consciously as adults. It is by a relationship with Jesus, through prayer and through th example of the other members of the community that we are helped to generously follow our vocation in such a way that it can become life-giving for everyone.


New families emerge from this “yes” to the Lord and they are welcomed in the great family of the parish. In fact, the same community that has helped the family to be formed sustains it with the loving embrace of all the members. If today’s society produces the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience (EG, 2), as Pope Francis reminds us, the parish can build up a joy of community, the fruit of feeling ourselves part of and responsible for one another’s lives. As with any family, we can experience the beauty of supporting one another, of helping one another and of celebrating together, united as we are by that Jesus, who is stronger and more faithful than any passing humour or circumstances.


Not living this life alone but walking in the company of others who have started out ahead of us, both the struggles and the beauty of life is set before us. Belonging to a concrete parish community, whatever form it takes, is a precious instrument by which the Lord calls us to go out of ourselves, from our tidy gardens cultivated rather selfishly, to live in the midst of others with love and generosity and to share with them the fruits given to us by God. In this way, the community rejoices when one of its members forms a new family in marriage, or follows the Lord in a special way in the priesthood or consecrated life or when they dedicate themselves to some noble task and thus give concrete expression to the Gospel by their own lives.


In the end, everything can be summed up in the love of God, in charity. Think of what we have heard in the first reading: different persons, marked out by nationality and culture, are made into one community through Jesus. It is not an ideal community, but a concrete one, a real one in which they need to pay attention to everyday needs. It is a communion of life that leads those that have more to realise their blessings and to take upon themselves the burdens of the weak, the widows in that particular historical context. This is a great example of the call of God eliciting the response of man through the common language of love. God makes himself present in the needs of the weak, and it is to them that he draws the attention of those who believe in him. The one who sees it feels called in the name of God and gets involved in the “daily distribution”. Not everyone does exactly the same things to address the needs of the community, but the exercise of charity is differentiated according to vocation, according to the charism that each one has. There is no question of placing the “table service” in contrast to the prayers and preaching. It is a matter of giving expression to both and placing them in their proper relationship, seeing them as inseparable realities of the one community of faith.


This image of the Church and of the parish is beautiful. It is a community dedicated to good works in love that seeks within itself the good of its members, especially the weakest, and externally seeks to give witness to a new manner of life, of which we are capable and that is truly human because we receive it from Christ through personal prayer and in the encounter with him in the celebration of the Eucharist with the community.


Today we can cast out mind to the community in which we were raised and in which we received the gift of faith. We can think of all those people who were “living stones” and who supported us along the path towards the Lord by their example, affection and prayer. Let us offer up a prayer for them of thanksgiving to God, praying also that whoever encounters or forms part of this community may have a real and joyous encounter with Christ in it.