Let Yourself Get Caught
Silly me, I thought I was going to have to cook right after my first child was born. I didn’t know about the Postpartum Food Network. You know, the parade of adorers bringing buckets of pasta and trays of brownies—meals dripping with caloric goodness accompanied by miniature outfits in baby blue.
I thought we were getting special treatment because we were highly visible in the parish and had just come through a public battle with infertility. But when our second baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome, our community outdid itself. Within a week, we were inundated with clothes, offers of help, meals, and spiritual bouquets.
That outpouring of love was a lesson in the power of community to bring Christ close enough to touch, eloquently demonstrating what Saint Teresa of Avila meant when she said Christ has only our hands and feet to do his work on the Earth.
But we have soccer tournaments, work obligations, and yards to mow. Who has time to change the world?
That’s where community comes in. One person may not make much impact, but a community of believers “of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32) packs quite a punch. And yet that’s the tough part: one heart and mind. How many communities can claim that distinction?
Parish communities are a lot like families: bonded, but not necessarily one, in heart and mind. Within them are leaders (priests) we adore and those who drive us crazy. Members who pull their weight and those who show up just in time for dinner (and never help with dishes). People you look forward to visiting with and those you secretly hope won’t show up.
In a family we’re obligated to love everyone, even those we don’t particularly like. We bend over backward to help even our least favorite relative, but the same isn’t always true at church. There’s always more to do than time to do it. It’s simpler to keep your head down and get out the door. Otherwise, you might discover that the person who passed you the collection basket has a hospitalized child and three more at home. And then you might feel obligated to help.
We each have some gift to share, some charism or skill that strengthens the Church for its work on earth. Community is the base on which all other work is built. Ministries, after all, are only successful when people show up and work together.
So next Sunday, allow yourself to get caught. Does someone seem uncomfortable, unsure of welcome? Is there someone you’ve never taken the time to get to know? Take a risk. You never know whether God is going to use your relationship with a family member—or a perfect stranger—to change the world. ♦