We Are One Body

Have you ever been awed watching two people dance? No, I don’t mean the rehearsed and glittery ballroom dances on television. I mean the dance of a married couple who have spent 50 years learning how to move as one, each aware of the other’s movement almost before it happens.

There is a sacred dance that forms us as Catholic Christians. It is the dance that happens between liturgy and catechesis. We are formed by worship to desire deeper understanding. We are given instruction in the Faith in order to participate in worship more fully. Each informs the other, and together they form disciples. The liturgies of the coming Easter season will invite us to connect our local parish of disciples to the story of those first disciples. We will wonder at the mystery of how becoming one with Christ makes us one body by the power of the Holy Spirit. A significant portion of the liturgical catechesis of Easter season must be to help develop a deeper understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ.

How necessary when the phantom curriculum of the culture continually devalues the common good. How critical when we hear about the breakdown of community whether in families, neighborhoods or global relationships. How foolish would we be if we missed the opportunity to proclaim and help the disciples of this age grasp more fully “the unity of all her members with each other as the result of their union with Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 789)?

A colleague tells this story: When she was a teenager, she took her younger sister to the county fair. They entered the area of the fairgrounds where a stage was set up in front of bleachers that went on as far as the eye could see. At some point in their effort to find seats, she became separated from her 5-year-old sister. Frantic, my colleague searched everywhere. The child was not to be found. As she was making her way through the crowds to find a police officer, she caught sight of her sister sitting on a bleacher, right in the middle of a family. She vaulted up the stairs, waded through the row and stood in front of her sister. “What do you think you are doing?” she gasped. Her sister, face furrowed with confusion replied, “You know, I just love being part of a big family.”

Of course, the Body of Christ is more than a big family.

The Church speaks emphatically that there is no discipleship without community. Here is the question that moves to the heart of this issue: Are we teaching this truth repeatedly and clearly in parish communities? In our emphasis on encounter and personal conversion, will we lose sight of the fullness of salvation history, the story of God’s revelation and call to a people?

Perhaps it is time for parish staffs to plan for the Easter season and Pentecost with the same focus and passion we give to Lent, the Triduum and Easter Sunday. What is the intentional curriculum of your parish for the Easter season? Are there social events to celebrate communal life? Do the adult, family and children’s programs creatively invite learners to understand the relationship between discipleship and communal life?

As the parish prepares to celebrate all those first Communions, have we led them to ponder the absolute necessity and joy of communal worship? Does the water of baptism become a central focus through which all those gathered know in mind and heart that union with Christ is union with his body on earth?

In our efforts to evangelize, perhaps we can start with these thoughts that respond to the consciousness of the culture that would argue, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” In his book “Who Needs God” (Touchstone, $15.99), Rabbi Harold Kushner writes, “Some people can create lives of holiness all by themselves, the way Mozart can create immortal music without taking piano lessons, but most of us need a structure and the company of other people to do it.”

Are you ready to join in the dance?

DR. JO ANN PARADISE is a national catechetical consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.