After his resurrection, at the moment in which he returned to his Father, Jesus pours out the Spirit upon his disciples and makes them sharers in his own mission. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the disciples went out on the first Pentecost Sunday and began to preach the Good News to peoples from all parts of the then known world.
The Spirit enabled the apostles to speak a message which was understandable to all. The Spirit enabled them to teach a message that was relevant and understandable to the lives and the concrete realities of peoples of different backgrounds. The message of Jesus is a universal one, not just in the sense that it has spread right around the world, but above all in that no one, no people is excluded from that message or from the community that Jesus’ message constructs.
The disciples of Jesus are brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. You cannot be a solo-Christian. Christianity is a faith that demands the building of community. The Church is called, according to the opening words of the Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church, to be “a sign and a sacrament of the unity in Jesus Christ of all humankind”. Wherever Church exists, it must be a sign for all to see of unity and community.
We all need community. Community is not just for the few who are naturally gregarious. We need something more than a vague good neighbourliness based on living next-door to each other without enmity or undue friction. We all need real community.
In our times – for the first time in human history – more than half of the world’s population lives in an urban setting. Modernity fosters urban life. The Archdiocese of Dublin is predominantly an urban diocese, though partly rural. Building urban community is a major challenge. Where the building of urban community fails, the results come in social breakdown, violence and alienation. Where urban community is built up, we have that extraordinary sense of care and solidarity which for generations marked the best of our inner cities. In the current crisis, we have seen great examples of spontaneous community support.
As we return towards a normalisation of Church life, we have to create focal points of community within our huge urban conglomerations. For too long we have given the name “development” to a process of simply building houses on the fringes of our cities, without any of the infrastructures to support community. Society needs community.
We live in a world in which for many individualism, self-expression and self-sufficiency become the driving force of human activity. Growth, progress, economic interest and profit can often be pursued for their own sake, without any regard for the consequences for other areas of life, whether on the poor and excluded, or the environment, or on the global good of inclusion.
The freedom given by the Spirit is not an individualistic freedom. The freedom that comes from the Spirit unites. The freedom that comes from the Spirit overcomes division. We all need community, but we must all construct community.
The “Creator Spirit” is the one who helps us steer the path of human progress in another direction, within a framework respectful of God’s design for his creation, forcing us to transform our individualism and self-centeredness into a response of generosity. Society needs community. Society needs a Church which witnesses to community and care.
Wednesday 27 May 2020