28thh Sunday of the Year C (10 Oct 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Looking More Deeply into the Communion of Saints
One thing people after us will note as a hallmark of Catholic self-understanding in these years after the Second Vatican Council is this: People may say Catholics grew in their understanding of church as “the People of God.” The word which describes us, the word which describes the church’s perception of itself is communio-communion.
This is nothing new, though our understanding and appreciation of communio is new. Pope Paul VI had written after the Council that it is the
very ancient dogma of the Communion of the Saints, whereby the life of each individual son [and daughter] of God in Christ and through Christ is joined by a wonderful link to the life of all...other Christian brothers [and sisters] in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ till, as it were, a single mystical person is formed.1
St. Paul lived this "link," and we heard him extol it in the second reading. Though Paul was chained in prison he knew the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. By bearing with St. Paul added to the “treasury of the church.”2
The treasure of the church is the salvation Jesus won for us by his dying and rising and all the ways in which our salvation registers: deep, holy desires for living the gospel; using our freedom more responsibly; and the wide variety of ways we love God and others. Each time someone unites with the marvelous thing Jesus did in dying and rising for us, the church and the world are richer. Each time we unite with the marvelous thing Jesus did in dying and rising for us, we advance the saving desire of the Trinity for the church and the world. Each time someone unites with the marvelous thing Jesus did in dying and rising for us, the effects Jesus’ cross are here and now present again.
Not a federation our communion is “the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ [forming as if] a single mystical person is formed.” Our communion exceeds the natural boundaries of body, space and time: those who live, no more with us but rest in our Messiah, desire our good. The saints “do not cease to intervene with the Father for us,”3 imitating and sharing the work of Jesus, namely interceding for us and the entire universe.
For our part we pray for those who have died and await their full share of heavenly rest. We also pray for one another and for the whole church and all the world. We, too, imitate and share the work of Jesus, namely interceding for the living and all the universe.
Church communion is organic. St. Paul likened us to a body, a unity of many parts.4 As he finished his metaphor, St. Paul commented: If one part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. The honor and joy we readily get. Suffering with one who suffers, unless the person is dear to us, is harder. We may even miss that suffering can accomplish something: sharing in Jesus’ dying and rising for the sake of others in the church and world.
St. Paul expressed that when he wrote, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. The prisoner Paul did not relish his suffering, but it did more deeply unite with his Messiah Jesus; and not metaphorically but in a real way. Jesus’ Spirit shaped St. Paul in communion with Jesus and all to whom Paul preached.I don’t relish suffering, and in no way do I stand here recommending it! Yet the communion of saints reminds us that suffering freely united with Jesus’ suffering mysteriously advances his saving victory even as our love does.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of our Triune God. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus: praise him for giving you a share in his dying and rising; ask Jesus for the grace to live your share in his dying and rising freely and generously, especially when it is not easy. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, deliver us from evil, on our lips are not a claim on divine insurance to have it easy. Rather, we beg to live in communion with Jesus, Mary and the saints when we are challenged to go it alone in difficult circumstances and that you and I belong to that “single mystical person [being] formed” in eternal glory because Jesus has died and is risen.
- Doctrine of Indulgences: Whereby the Revision of Sacred Indulgences is Promulgated, 5, 1967.
- Doctrine of Indulgences, 5.
- Doctrine of Indulgences, 5.
- 1Corinthians 12.12-27