Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Body of Christ is alive in our midst

Our involvement with the church as a communion of people consciously in relationship with one another in response to God, highlights the reign of God, illustrating a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. The ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful are coworkers in God’s work of salvation. We are united truly through our diversity. It is in understanding our own cultures, and in welcoming others’ cultural values, that we authentically encounter one another on the journey toward salvation. 

This year Bishop Dominic Carmon, the retired auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, celebrates the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. I have been thinking of Bishop Carmon in recent months, particularly his insight on what it means to be church. In an exhortation, Bishop Carmon taught us the preaching of Christ is so powerful because he does not say one thing and do another, as we are often prone to do. He said, “We must always value God’s reign over our lives; we must value justice, peace and mercy. We must value the love of God and neighbor more than anything else.” 

DeKarlos and Kanobia Blackmon visiting with Bishop Dominic Carmon, SVD

Just like the disciples, when we recognize the value of the Kingdom, we should possess the driving desire to bring about that Kingdom just like the merchant seeking fine pearls or the man looking for buried treasure. Bishop Carmon reminded us that valuing the kingdom of God is the first step to discipleship. In fulfilling his Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. As we learn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (763), we must keep ever before us the certain reality that the church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.” 

When considering the varied ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that comprises communities throughout our diocese and the nation, we are hearkened to endeavor to spread an ever-larger, more welcoming table. However, to do so, we must actively seek to understand each other through meaningful encounter. 

In September 1984, the 10 black Catholic bishops of the U.S. published a pastoral letter entitled “What We Have Seen and Heard” as a collective witness to the black community. The bishops conveyed the richness in the black experience that must be shared with the whole church because it is in the “celebration of the Sacred Mysteries … when the Church is most fully actualized.” Well, as we fast-forward to 2018, we find the same is true of Hispanic and Latino heritage: there is a sincere richness in the Hispanic experience of faith and sacramental life that must be shared with the whole church.

The number of Hispanic Catholics is growing exponentially in the U.S. This demands and justifies the need to ensure we are actively bringing forward the gifts of their heritage to add vibrancy to what we know today as church. By embracing the culture of the Hispanic people, in light of our own respective cultures, we can revitalize our church today, and thus greatly strengthen the effectiveness of the Gospel message. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters not only draw from the sacraments of the church, but also bring to the church how God penetrates our world and is present in the ordinary aspects of life. 

Christ calls us to take hold of the kingdom of God, here and now. Through the diversity present within each of our parishes, we experience Christ’s presence. As we encounter others this year, we must remember the parish community is the Body of Christ alive in our midst.

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