Today’s Gospel: Luke 16:9-15
Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary
What constitutes a true community? Today’s readings give us three concrete clues.
First, we have to get to know one another. In his letter, St. Paul calls out a greeting by name to those who form part of his community of ministers: the couple (Priscilla and Aquila), individuals of both sexes (Epaenetus and Mary), relatives (Andronicus and Junia), and friends (Ampliatus and others). The early Christian communities were made up of people who knew each other by name and greeted one another with a holy kiss. This letter is filled with the intimacy and care that were the trademark of early Christian communities and should be today. An example of this may be taken from the Mormons who form wards of no more than 200 people. Ward members communicate with each other so that needs—both physical and spiritual—can be met, and no one feels like they are isolated. Although the structure of the Mormon Church is hierarchical like the Catholic Church, the formation of smaller units helps people to know each other and live as a community despite large numbers. How can we better do this as Catholics?
Second, we are called to grow in our devotion to God and to God’s People over temporal goods. In the gospel, Jesus tells us flatly, “You cannot serve both God and money.” If we don’t direct the object of our affections, we may become like the Pharisees who “loved money” and were so angry with Jesus for speaking of the contradiction between their love for money and love for the community that they ”sneered” at him. Jesus is speaking of the heart, which is where our treasure lies. We live out of what is in our hearts; as the Lord says elsewhere, “By their works you shall know them.” In order to live as children of God in the community of believers, our devotion must be for God and God’s People over human esteem and wealth. Put another way, “You cannot serve two masters…but will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other.” By striving to give our hearts to God we grow in willingness to love our neighbor even when it conflicts with our own interests.
A third way to nurture community is to see it as part of our eternal home. Those around us in our church or neighborhood are entrusted to us so we may grow into the full stature of God’s beloved children. “The person who is trustworthy in small matters is also trustworthy in great.” If we show others a simple kindness, a smile, or a word of encouragement, or share food or visit the sick in response to God’s inspirations, then God will entrust us with greater things, the greatest riches of all—an invitation to the “eternal dwellings.” What is “dishonest wealth” but all the things of this world, which we secretly believe belong to us, when in reality all belongs to God? True wealth is the community, with whom we will be united again in those eternal places.
Getting to know each other, striving to be devoted to God and God’s people and seeing community as part of our eternal home—all are ways that we nurture community. There is great joy in living in community, not because people are easy to live with, but because God is there where we are gathered in the Lord’s name. May the Spirit teach us to live this way!
How can I reach out to those in my community and live more as Paul and the early Church did, knowing each other and caring for each other in concrete ways?
Lord, transform our communities into places of charity and help us to put the wealth of the Kingdom ahead of any worldly concerns.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola