Our Scripture readings for today have led me to reflect on what it means to be church. Our reading from the letter to the Hebrews speaks about the new covenant we have in Jesus Christ. A covenant implies a relationship not only between God and individuals, but between God and a people, a community. In our Gospel reading, Jesus calls twelve disciples as Apostles. Why did Jesus call twelve? It’s clear that Jesus is making a parallel to the Twelve Tribes of Israel making up the Chosen People.
As a church, one of the ways we refer to ourselves is as the People of God. If we as a church were to see ourselves as a community of faith in mission, it would be a powerful witness to the world. Can we come together as a community, as a church? I don’t ask that question lightly. Just as it is in society, there are many things that can divide us even though we hold a common faith. Political and cultural differences seem to play themselves out in the church as much as they do in the broader society. But even apart from those considerations, there are also the all-too-human tendencies to turf wars and rivalries.
There are bound to be differences of opinion and even conflicts in any institution made up of human beings, and the Church is no exception. But we are called to something different when it comes to resolving conflicts. We are called to something different than one faction trying to eliminate or dominate the other. That is the way of the world. Rather, we are called to love each other as Christ loves us. Our proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ love carries much more weight when people can see that love in the church.
Like the Twelve, we are called to preach by our lives the love of God in Jesus Christ! And when we come together and support each other in living out our faith, we can help cast out the demons of prejudice and fear and division. May the Good News shine through us together!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.