We need to make our human community the living Body of Christ. But how do we form “community”? What is a community that is worthy of calling itself the manifestation of the Word and the presence of the Risen Christ?
A community is different from a group. There are many groups but only few communities; only a small number of groups are willing to make the transition from being a group towards being a community.
A group is a collection of people doing the same thing or who happen to be in the same place at the same time. A mere group cannot be the manifestation of the presence of the Risen Christ.
A community is defined by the quality of presence among the members of a group. We look at several key factors that help constitute a Christian Community.
1. Members in a group make the decision and commitment to give the gift of a caring presence to each other. … a conscious decision and commitment on the part of each individual to offer to each other a quality of presence that is nurturing and caring.
2. A community is always a work in progress. It is an experience that we always try to keep alive and real in our midst. The moment people do not have the time to share their experiences or let their experiences interact, it becomes difficult to create a community.
3. A community is born when there is a welcoming of my experiences by others and a welcoming of others’ experiences into my own.
4. A community has an atmosphere of complementary understanding. … Reaching common understanding is made possible only by a process of dialogue, listening, and self-emptying. Not everyone in a group is willing or prepared to be open to this experience that is a necessity in a community.
5. From complementarity in understanding, the next stage is moving to common judgment where we are able to affirm and deny the same things. If we affirm and deny different things then the community breaks apart (i.e. differing in understanding the Vision and Mission, Core Values and/or Apostolate of the Community).
6. With common judgment, the community moves on to common values, decisions, and actions. What sustains this is a real investment among members in open, sincere, loving and honest communication.
7. Communication is what can make or break the unity in community. The only thing accomplished in modern communication is the fast exchange of messages and information; but true communication does not happen in the mere exchange of information. Communication is present with the initial gift of a caring and nurturing presence that each individual in the group gives to each other. When we communicate, we hope we communicate with words the gift of ourselves, thereby giving birth to, and nourishing community.
8. An essential quality of a true community is the members’ willingness to be taught and their willingness to learn. It is a gathering of learners eager to be taught and immersed in teachings of Christ. The members eagerly and ardently listen to Jesus’ teachings and re-teachings to correct previous misconceptions. They do not harbor the illusion that they have achieved full knowledge and that there is nothing more to learn. They desire to learn…from teachers, from one another, and from God through prayer and scripture.
9. A meal has a highly social and spiritual value, and this is especially true in the Eucharistic meal. The Risen Lord invites us to let our meals signify the reconciliation brought about by his presence. It is a true meal only if people who share in it already possess what is called “unison of hearts”. It is in the Eucharist that the Church nourishes its own mission to celebrate in the name of the world, the true worship of the One who gave his own self. It is in a true Eucharistic community that the world will recognize the Risen Christ. Community food and meals taken in the context of the Risen Lord are about life, reconciliation, and a sharing of life together with like-minded community members.
We ask ourselves:
“Am I willing to be taught and to learn more about Christ and from Christ?”
“Is my prayer life a real encounter, a real living relationship with the Risen Christ?”
“Is my encounter with the Word of God a transforming experience of the Risen Christ who teaches me again and again?”
“Is our Eucharistic experience a re-birthing of the community of the Risen Christ?”
“Are our community meals experiences of reconciliation and a sharing of life?”
St. Augustine writes, “You, people of God, be what you receive. You received the Body of Christ. Be what you receive. Be what you celebrate.”
Only when these questions are answered positively by each and every member of our group, can we proclaim that our group is truly a human community worthy of calling itself the manifestation of the Word and the presence of the Risen Christ. Only then do we move from being an ordinary group of people to becoming a Christian community of Easter people.