Community sustains us in faith

"… we want to express the joy of being disciples of the Lord and of having been sent with the treasure of the Gospel" (document of the 2007 Aparecida conference of Latin American bishops, n. 28.), "The joy we have received in the encounter with Jesus Christ, we want for it to reach every man and woman hurt by adversity… to all those who lie by the roadside… ( Lk. 10, 29-37; 18, 2" (Aparecida document, n. 29)

The faith community is the place where Christians learn to go with Jesus. It is in this community where everyone is discovering Jesus, and little by little discards the misconceptions about him. From this encounter a permanent dynamism of growth, transformation and commitment is initiated.

The mission at hand should reach everyone: there are no frontiers to hold it back, there are no prejudices to impede it; for those of us who are church there are no foreigners. For that reason even if what you do is not a great act, each small and quiet service, the "crumbs" of the good news are enough to transform our life and the lives of other people (Mt. 15.21-28).Jesus who seemed so sure of his own mission, allows himself to be taught and corrected by the pagan woman. The Canaanite dialog with Jesus is all a strategy. It is clear to the woman that what Jesus can give to her is critical for her life, and she puts into action several resources: she pleads, trusts, convinces, insists, and even flatters. The woman is determined not to let go. Does our personal dealing with Jesus have that same intensity? Is it as desired, as convinced?

Following Jesus, being his disciple, cannot be a solitary adventure. During crisis situations we need the warmth and the closeness of the community. It strengthens us in those moments to know that we can trust in someone to help us carry our cross. Many times in life, particularly when one feels that one’s mission is too demanding and exhausting, when the trials require more maturity, one remembers the conditions Jesus imposes on those who want to follow him. There are Christians who must deal in their lives with the daily options between attractive desires (of pleasure, of money, of power) and the criteria of Christ, of sacrificing for others, renouncing the behaviors that are contrary to the Gospel, opening to the spiritual and not only to the material and immediate. Everyone knows by his or her own experience what "take your cross and follow me" may mean.

We need to constantly recover Jesus Christ as the center of our lives and that is why seeing Peter´s testimony in the Gospel is comforting. Our faith is renewed when we hear the word of the Pope, it helps us discern, it unites us and confirms the community. In him we find the guidance for always having Jesus as the only foundation of our faith, and indicates the way to the Kingdom announced by Jesus.

Something that distinguishes the Christian community is knowing how to "talk to the brother." Everyone has the right to put it into practice. This is not easy: because we do not want to "intrude" in the lives of others, sometimes we say "do not complicate your life", or simply judge and condemn. In both cases there is a lack of a spirit of authentic fraternity (it is not fraternity not to intrude nor is it to do it while judging). A community that fights, that is divided, that lives in continued tensions and susceptibilities; a community that gossips, is not a Christian community. Likewise, a community that remains silent, which, for whatever reason, leaves the responsibility in the hands of a small group or maybe one only person is not a Christian community. It can do us much good to hear a friendly and loyal criticism, a timely observation, and the sincere support at the moment when we become disoriented. What can help you change are not the great ideas or the beautiful thoughts, but having met in your life someone who has gotten close to you in a friendly way and has helped you reorient your life.

The essential experience of the whole Christian community consists of: "having a memory of Jesus," remembering his words, embracing them with faith, and joyfully put them into practice. To embrace the Gospel in the concrete situations of every day allows us to connect with Jesus and to live the experience of growing as his disciples and followers. "Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am among them." We do not gather because of habit or obligation…Jesus is the source; he encourages and gives life to our meetings. From these meetings "in his name" arise the new relationships with others.

While in other parts of the world the 24th Sunday of ordinary time is proclaimed as an invitation to forgive always and without conditions, the Church in the United States celebrates the festivity of the exaltation of the Holy Cross.

During the summer, several young ladies from the migrant communities celebrate their quinceañeros (15th birthdays), and the parents and godparents give them a cross to wear around their necks. That Little cross contains the faith of the one who desires to follow the Lord. They will have a whole life ahead to discover the message the cross has for them.

Jesus does not choose the cross, but he does not get abandon his path even if it leads to the cross. We exalt Jesus´ courage, opting for the Kingdom and love without fear of the cross that he was sure was going to be imposed. The exaltation of the fidelity Jesus had for the cause of the Kingdom is what we celebrate in this festivity and is what allows us to continue our commitment to be "disciples and missionaries."

Father Flores is director of migrant ministry for the Diocese of Rochester.

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