Thursday, July 25, 2013

Many Parts, One Body

One of the scripture readings that I love has to do with how we are all parts of one body.  "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12) It goes on to say that "If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy." (1 Corinthians 12:26)

This has always been one of my favorite passages upon which to reflect. We, the church members, make up the body of Christ.  As the body, we are at our best when the entire body is healthy.  Although some scripture can be a bit difficult to put into context, this seemed to be a fairly easy one.  To put this in perspective I only needed to think about when I was sick and unable to do all I needed to do.  Or I could think about if I had hurt my hand or foot how I needed to compensate in order to get things done.  Could I be productive?  Could I change the way I did things in order to carry on? Yes. I could. Was it as good as when I was completely healthy and on top of my game?  Never.  So, I could take such experiences and apply it to this scripture.

As the body of Christ, we are at our best when we are all spiritually healthy and well.  When one of us is ill, it effects the entire body.  We may be able to compensate and carry on. However, we are at our very best and the way that God intended when we are all healthy and working together.  So, just as we would nurse ourselves back to health, we should also care for each other spiritually and physically so that we all are healthy.

This always seemed like one of the relatively easy scripture passages to wrap my brain around.  Maybe not always easy to put into practice, but one I thought that was easily understandable.  Until the other night, that is, when I realized it was so much more. 

The other night I was thinking about my mom's stroke and what has transformed since then.  She has changed.  My dad has changed.  My siblings have changed.  I have changed.  Relationships have changed.  Communication has changed.  Expectations have changed.  So much has changed.  And as I sat in bed journaling about all of these changes this scripture passage drifted into my mind... if one suffers, we all suffer with him.

I thought about how so many dynamics in my family have changed since this one event.  Some changes for the better, some not. It was so clear to me at that moment how a "body" - in this instance a family - was effected due to what one member was going through.  Because, you see, it isn't ever one person who goes through something.  All those who know and love the person are also effected by it.  "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."

This truth permeated me that evening and I was able to internalize this scripture in an entirely new way, or maybe I should say deeper way.  We are all part of this wonderful and marvelous body of Christ.  We are all connected.  Until we realize how intrinsically united we are with one another, until we realize how much we need one another, and until we realize that we were created to be many, but yet still be one, we won't ever really be whole.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Place in this World

Growing up I was a member of one (1) parish community. Granted, as a Catholic, we are a universal community of believers. One of the things that I love is attending Mass when we are on vacation. We are not at our "home" parish, but we are always at home with our Catholic community in the world. However, within our beautiful, universal Church there are many parishes and you usually call one your home parish. And I belonged to one parish from the time I was born until the time I went away to college.

This church truly felt like home to me. I knew its stained glass windows and would get lost in their beauty. I knew its tabernacle with the beautiful candles hanging above it.  I knew its fabulous crucifix that drew me into times of great contemplation. I knew the people who I went to school with and the people I worshiped with. I knew its warmth. It was a beautiful, quiet, inviting place. When I was there, I always felt that I was at home. Often, even in my youth, I would go there by myself, immerse myself in the cool darkness of the building and just be, just be with myself and with God. It was a wonderful and welcoming place in this world for me.

When my husband and I moved to our current city 15 years ago we were looking for longevity. We searched for a home that would grow with our growing family. We sought out a great school district.  We looked for a place in this world where we could plant ourselves and, hopefully, allow our roots to grow deep and strong.

Since living here, my family has been members of three different churches and now we will be looking for our fourth. The little parish we currently belong to is in the process of being clustered with another parish and will close in the near future. Where do we belong? Where is our place in this world?

Each time we have moved I find myself feeling a little lost. This is not what I had hoped for my family when we moved. I wanted my children to grow up and feel that sense of belonging, feel that sense of home within one parish community. I wanted to feel that for myself as well. However, that wasn't the path that God had in mind for us apparently.

As I mentioned earlier, the Catholic Church is a universal church.  God is there.  Jesus is there.  The Mass is the Mass.  I am so grateful for that. I know that and realize that my family can be members at any Catholic parish and we will be home.

There is something very special, dare I say sacred, about the people and community within a parish.  We are called a parish family.  And each parish community, like a family, has a different way of being together and engaging one another. We come together.  We pray.  We worship.  We sing.  We laugh.  We cry.  It is a beautiful thing to see the connections within a parish family.  A thriving parish is like a stained glass window with the sunlight pouring through it.  The beauty engages your mind and eye as you look at the images and colors and then emanates far beyond the window itself and you see colors dancing on the walls and pews and floor. That is the people in a parish, we make up that window and it is our individual colors that come together to make such a beautiful image of our faith.

Each parish has taught me something about myself, my faith, my family, our God.  At each church I have met some wonderful and engaging people and made some dear friends.  Each church has opened my eyes to different things about my faith - what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it.  Although I have had these beautiful lessons there have been some difficult ones as well.  Through it all, I still find myself struggling to find that place in this world where we can just be, just be as I was in my childhood parish.

Throughout our lives God will prune us in order to get rid of what is dead and to help us to thrive and bear more fruit.  It can be a painful process. It is not one that I particularly enjoy.  However, it is a necessary one to grow and flourish.

Generally, I don't just jump right into new situations.  Because of this, each parish change has been difficult as I have had to slowly immerse myself in a new community, try to find my place in a new family.  So many times in life I find myself struggling to discover where I fit. This is another one of those times. Where do I belong?  Where is my place in this world? I'm not sure yet where we will be, but I trust that we will end up right where He wants us for this time in our lives.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Michael W. Smith - A Place in this World: