BY SR. LAURETTA LEIPZIG
Do you remember what it was like to walk into a new church? Perhaps you scanned the area for a friendly face. Maybe you wondered what this “newness” will mean in your life and will you feel that you are a part of this community. We all want it to feel at “home” in our church community, and we want coming into this special space to fill a deep need to know that we belong.
Let us step back and look at the seven weeks that elapse between Christ’s Resurrection and Pentecost. During that time Jesus appeared and reappeared to his disciples. It was a period in which Jesus’ command to wait until the Holy Spirit comes was given. It was a time of unimaginable transformation through the Spirit and by the Spirit that would launch the church into human history. This period brought about a tremendous movement and life change in thousands and millions of people down through the ages. This was the beginning of our church…a community of believers. It all began with a spiritual empowerment, a unifying experience because it focused outward to others through the Holy Spirit into the world.
Scripture tells us that in the early community “All the believers were of one heart and mind…they shared everything.” Those actions were evidence of their witness to Christ’s love and power. They were telling us that faith has to go deep and transform attitudes and actions from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. They are our models even today. From them, we learn how we, the community, can and must embody Christ’s continuing presence on earth. When others need prayer, healing or companionship we are their community to surround them with that compassion and encouragement which lightens their load, strengthens them and gives them the courage to keep on trying. We are the community that believes in continuing conversion and provides a place for prayer and worship together. We are the community that learns each day to serve others. We look to Jesus as our model who washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. We are sometimes the washers like Jesus and sometimes the ones being washed, and so we learn what service and submission really mean.
A boy 10 years old was standing in front of a shoe store, barefooted and peering through the window while shivering with the cold. A lady approached and saw the little fellow and asked, “Why are you looking so intently in this window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” the boy replied. The lady took the boy by the hand and went into the store. She asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked for a basin of water and a towel. Both were brought to her. She took the little boy to the back of the store and, kneeling down, washed his little feet and dried them with a towel. By this time the clerk returned with the socks. She tied up the remaining pairs and gave them to the boy. “No doubt, little fellow” she said, “you feel more comfortable now?” As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand and looking up into her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”
This is a beautiful story, and its significance is far deeper than the final question of the boy. A synonym for wife is partner. Aren’t we, in a real sense, God’s partner as we go about doing his work in the world? We are partners within our communities, accepting the gift God offers to us and all humankind that enables us to witness to the presence of God in the world.
We simply cannot experience freely the power and joy of life with God without being drawn into life together with our sisters and brothers in Christ. I think it’s safe to say that the happiest people are not those who get more, but those who give more. Coretta Scott King is quoted as saying: “Community is measured by the actions of its members.” That statement reminds us that in every community there is work to be done. In every community there are wounds to heal. But in every heart there is the power to do it!