Occasionally when I find myself in that part of Kenosha where I grew up, I take a detour and drive past my old neighborhood. It’s a nostalgic moment as I stop in front of the white house on the corner where I grew up, and allow a flood of memories to roll through my mind. The yard where my brother and I played with the neighborhood gang, the trees and bushes that have mushroomed over the years, and the front porch where we spent many summer evenings solving the problems of the world, all trigger images of people and events long past. It’s good to recall our roots and it is reassuring to be able to revisit and remember them.
We need a spiritual home too, a place where we are comfortable in prayer, in service, and in the presence of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us such a place for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters as we journey through life. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…I am going to prepare a place for you…and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus is not talking about architecture, but about his presence.
In this world, we call that place---that home, “Church.” This Church is not a building, a structure, or a house of worship. It is the people who are the living presence of Jesus made real to us through the service and ministry we share. Since the Second Vatican Council, “Church” has been redefined. “The Church is all the people of God. It is a sacrament---a sign and an instrument, a communion with God and unity among all peoples.” [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church] We do not belong to the Church, nor do we have a role in the Church. Through baptism we are Church!
All of us who are Church are filled with the Holy Spirit and nurtured by God’s gifts of faith, hope and love. We are all endowed with special gifts for building up the Church and we all share roles received at our baptism. This creates a gathering of people who are truly equal and free. We share a common dignity, a global responsibility, a vocational call, and a personal union with Jesus and his mission. It is this calling that allows us the responsibility and right to share in that mission.
We can be sure of the Jesus we are following. If we follow him, we cannot lose our way. Spiritual writer Alice Camille reminds us: “If we trust in his plan, the unpredictability of worldly variables will not shake us. We are stones being built into a design we cannot see from our end of the quarry. In his hands, we will assume the perfect contour for our position in the structure, and where we wind up could not be more right. Letting go requires confidence and trust in the force of gravity. How much kinder, wiser and more loving is the force that catches us!”
It is healthy to continually visit our spiritual home, to draw needed strength, and to assess the progress we have made in building Church that reflects the loving concerns of Jesus for all our brothers and sisters. There we are confronted with the challenge of becoming an authentic and transparent Church that is reflected in our works---in what we do and don’t do. If we build a community that heals, welcomes, feeds and forgives, then we become a sign that we are modeling what Jesus did. Seeing us in action, reveals Jesus to others. That makes Church authentic, transparent, and visible to all. Welcome home!
~ Deacon Wilson Shierk