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A homily for interchurch families

Fr Ernest Falardeau, SSS, Ecumenical Officer for the Catholic Archdiocese of Albuquerque, gave the homily at the eucharist on Saturday evening.  He focused on the reading from Colossians (3:1-5, 9-11), which, he said, ‘puts us straight on the path to a spirituality for interchurch families’.

Paul reminds us that through baptism we have been buried with Christ and have risen with him to newness of life. Christ is at the center of our ecumenical spirituality. ‘The closer we draw to Christ, the closer we draw to each other’, the Second Vatican Council tells us.

Christian unity is not our doing. Christ prayed for it. He sent his Spirit to achieve it. It is God – Father, Son and Spirit – who will bring it about. Our task is to receive it, to prepare the ground for it. We must eliminate prejudice and stereotypes from our hearts and prepare the way for God’s grace to bring about a profound conversion. Then we will no longer see other Christians as ‘other’ but as ‘like’. In the words of the Council: ‘we will see and recognize other Christians as brothers and sisters in the Lord.’

If we see the Church as Paul does, we will see it as one in spite of divisions. It enjoys a communion ‘real but incomplete’. We are part of the body, members of Christ, brothers and sisters in the one family of God. The spirituality of the interchurch family is an ecclesial spirituality, profoundly affected by love for the Church. Not just the church or denomination in which we were born, but every expression of the Christian tradition has a right to our love. Our prayer is always ‘in Christ’, and his prayer is always ‘that all may be one … so that the world may believe’. We pray with Christ that our love for one another may continue to be – as in the early Church – a sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst. Our communion is incomplete. It is being completed by every step we take together; every dialogue, prayer, action that advances the kingdom of God moves us inevitably toward unity.

Paul underscores that in the Church there is no Jew or Greek, free or slave. All are Christians, part of the family. By our baptism and faith we are in real communion. That is why eucharistic sharing is possible for us. Our ecclesial communion leads to eucharistic communion. Our baptism opens the door to our sharing in the life of the Church, the life of Christ, eternal life. We grow in our knowledge of God, that is why we are clothed with Christ. Our Christian spirituality is essentially a growth in the Risen Lord. We put on his mind, share his thoughts, live his life.

And we do this as a family, as domestic church. We are the church in miniature. At the heart of the Church we want to develop a spirituality of love. Love is the great commandment of Jesus, our families are to grow in the love of God and neighbor. If the world is to change it must change one family at a time. If the Church is to grow, it is to grow one family at a time. Let every family share deeply in the life of the Church, in the life of the Risen Lord.

We share the eucharist together. Christ draws us into one body and one Church. The eucharist is a sign of the unity we already share as baptized Christians who love God and one another. It is also a sign of the unity we hope to achieve with God’s grace. It is the means to that unity. Thomas Aquinas says unity is the ‘thing’ (res), the purpose and goal of the eucharist (Summa Theologica III, q.73).

The Risen Lord gives us his Spirit, the Giver of Life. The Spirit gives us life in Christ. The Holy Spirit is at the heart of our spirituality as interchurch families. Our task is to follow the Spirit’s lead. All spirituality is ultimately life in the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to live in us as in a temple. Worship must be in the Spirit and in truth.

The bread on the table of our homes is a sign and reminder of the bread we break together in the Church. The bread broken on our tables is a prayer that Christ will unite us in the bread broken in his memory. Christ was born in Bethlehem, house of bread. And the Word made flesh becomes our bread of life as we share the eucharist together. We pray that the Risen Lord will continue to draw us together and to himself, until he comes in glory. Amen