February 5, 2015
Thursday of week 4 in Ordinary Time
(Saint Agatha, Virgin, Martyr)
Jesus Creates Communion
His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth.
Today’s reading describes heaven as a place, a “city”, a “gathering,” an “assembly.”
You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven.
God seems to have a thing about getting people together in a place. It shows in the way he keeps using the word “house.” He uses the word to stand for a family or “household,” and identifies it with his people, as when he said “My servant Moses is entrusted with all my house” (Numbers 12:7). He promised his new covenant would be “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:8).
Speaking to David, who wanted to build God a temple, he used “house” both literally and figuratively to mean both a temple and a dynasty:
I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house… I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever… I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever (1Chronicles 17:10).
Jesus himself was born of “the house of David” (Luke 1:27).
Today’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he wanted them to stay in people’s houses as a sign that they were integrated into a community, and that God’s word comes through a community, is spoken in a community to “give light to all in the house,” and is meant to form community: “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there” (Mark 6:10; Matthew 5:15; 10:11).
And when it was time to institute the Eucharist, he did it in a house. “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says…I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples’” (Matthew 26:18).
Jesus used “house” as a synonym for heaven: “Then the master said, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled’” (Luke 14:23). “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
Our purpose on earth is to let ourselves, “like living stones, be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5).
The gifts he gave were to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11).
The point is that Scripture presents Jesus as a Savior who calls people together and unites them in peace and love as one community, one family, one body, in the “communion (koinonia) of the Holy Spirit” (2Corinthians 13:14). The Christian celebration is a koinonia, a “fellowship” realized in sharing the body and blood of Christ (1Corinthians 10:16). To be a Christian is to “devote oneself” to the “teaching and fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This communion of mind and will and heart is a mystery of communion in one shared life, not only with each other, but with God himself. And this communion is the Good News the apostles were sent to announce: “We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship (koinonia) with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1John 1:3).
So what does that tell us? It tells us that, while we can find God and talk to Jesus any time, any place, there is something special about going to his “house,” or to any house where people gather to be with him. We can be hermits on a mountain top—and all of should have regular “hermit hours” or “hermit days” of prayer in solitude—but we cannot exempt ourselves from the koinonia. Essential to relationship with Jesus is relationship with others in the fellowship of a common experience of believing, of persevering with shared hope, and of bringing each other to life with mutual love.
That is what Jesus does: he brings people together in koinonia, communion. He brings us into a relationship with each other that is not just modeled on, but is a sharing in the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit that makes the Trinity the Trinity. That makes God God.
We cannot think authentically of Jesus without including his role, essential to his being, of bringing every human being into relationship with every other person and with the Three Persons of God. Koinonia and Christ are inseparable.
O God, we ponder your mercy within your temple.
Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
Do I choose to let Jesus draw me into relationship with God and others?
Pray: “Lord, one thing I ask: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.”
Practice: Whenever you are with others, be conscious of how God feels about it.
Discuss: What role does meeting or praying with others play in your spiritual life?