The Body of Christ is inherently a collective reality. Father Richard emphasizes that to live the gospel, we need each other:
The Body of Christ, the spiritual family, is God’s strategy. It is both medium and message. It is both beginning and end: “May they all be one . . . so that the world may believe it was you who sent me . . . that they may be one as we are one, with me in them and you in me” (John 17:21–23).
There is no other form for the Christian life except a common one. This may even be a matter of culture, if culture refers to something which is shared and passed on. In this sense, I am wondering if there is any other kind of Christianity except “cultural Christianity,” for better and for worse.
Until and unless Christ is someone happening between people, the gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until Jesus Christ is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on at all.
We are now paying the price for centuries in which the Church was narrowed from a full vision of peoplehood to an almost total preoccupation with private persons and their devotional needs. But history has shown that individuals who are confirmed in their individualism by the very character of our evangelism will never create church, except after the model of a service station: they will use it as a commodity like everything else. This is far cry from our “original participation” (Owen Barfield [1898–1997]) in the Body of Christ from the moment of our conception.
Certainly, we must deal with individuals. But the very nature of our lifestyle and our church teaching must say from the beginning what the goal is—the communion of saints, a shared life together as family, the trinitarian life of God, the kingdom—here!
The prophet Haggai criticizes the Jews after the exile for dwelling comfortably in their “paneled houses” while the common walls of the temple lie in ruins (see Haggai 1:4, 9). His prophetic call is now and forever. We still think that we can work with the world’s agenda, where career and individual fulfillment are the basic building blocks of society. And we believe that we can build church from those well-educated and well-saved blocks. But God needs “living stones making a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).
For Jesus, such teachings as forgiveness, healing, and justice are not just a spiritual test or obstacle course. They are quite simply the necessary requirements for a basic shared life. Peacemaking and reconciliation are not some kind of box seat tickets to heaven. They are the price of peoplehood. They express the truth in the heart of God, the truth that has been shared with us in the Holy Spirit, the union in Jesus the Christ who is reconciling all people to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993), 50–51.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on how you are the body of Christ and community as alternative consciousness.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 1-3 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image Inspiration: In this triptych, we begin by seeing just one fruit. Moving to the center photo, we see the whole tree. When we look at the third photo, we bring with us the knowledge that there is more to this tree, an abundance of fruit. It’s not alone. Nothing stands alone.
Story from Our Community:
I’ve spent my life trying to help ensure fair housing choices and full voting rights for all. If all Christians valued diversity and worked for inclusion and equity in every aspect of life, we would have a different country, with justice for all.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.