What holds a church up? If your instant response was the walls, then we need to reread the letter from Peter. These words were spoken to the newly baptized and they were told who they now were. They were the living stones of the church. it was the community that made up the church because in most cases they worshiped in the homes of other Christians, at times in the catacombs, or where ever they could. I would never say that our sacred buildings are not important but the one thing I have learned in the last two months that without people in these pews and within this concrete walls, then it is an empty building except for the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
What I have learned is that we as a church continue to prosper not confined by concrete walls.. In our area, masks have been made, the hungry and the poor have been fed, we have taken care of each other, we have prayed together, we have remade our homes into the domestic church, parents have taken over the faith formation of their youth with Maureen’s help, and I have seen the same thing happen through out the diocese. It is my firm belief that the grace that has been released into our Catholic communities has been a wake up call to not be confined by the concrete walls, the boundaries of a parish, or own by our own fear of change. We worship on Sundays with people from St Marys and St John/St Joseph, people in Colonie, people in Greenwich, in Lake George, Virginia and others from out of state.
Isn’t this what it means to the Catholic Church? To be the universal community that, like Stephen and the first deacons, who serve the most vulnerable in our time. We exist to be living stones of Christ’s Kingdom, not walled in out of fear or anxiety, but men and women who trust more in God than money or power. We exist to be a living community not confined by human boundaries, but men and women who serve every person no matter who they are. We are, like the early deacons, to be the voice of the voiceless and disenfranchised. The deacons are first and foremost ministers of service who lead us into getting our hands dirty and smell the sheep. The deacon embodies the call to service that in mandated by baptism. They are a challenge to the priests and bishops to not be CEO’s but servants. At the ordination of a Maronite deacon, I heard Bishop Gregory say that the diaconate is the foundation of the priesthood and the episcopacy.
As I look beyond the gradual reopening of our communities and our churches, my fear is that we will try to go back to hiding behind the concrete walls of a fear to change. Our focus must be on the promise of Jesus in the Gospel: “in my Father’s house are many mansions,” not built of stones and concrete but the love that Jesus showed us on the Cross and opened for us by His resurrection. Now is not the time to hide, now is the time to trust and move led by Spirit of the God that we can trust.