FR. AYODELE AYENI CsSP
March 5, 2012
A young girl asked her mother: "Mom, where did human beings originate?" Her mother said, "My daughter, we are all descended from Adam and Eve; they were our first parents."
The daughter was not satisfied with that answer, so she asked her father the same question. Her father said, "My daughter, human beings evolved from monkeys; monkeys are our first parents."
More confused, the girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom, you told me human beings descended from Adam and Eve, who were our first parents, but Dad said we are descended from monkeys: Who is telling the truth?"
Her mother said to her, "My daughter, your father told you where his family comes from, and I told you where my family comes from."
With all kinds of creation theories circulating today, it is presumptuous to think people always know the reason for what they do and believe. Why do we go to Mass and why should we care about our neighbours?
What links me to the person beside me in church, and why do I need to offer him or her the Sign of Peace? Perhaps we need to enlarge our definition of family. When we talk about family, we instinctively think of blood ties or legal adoption.
The family called "Church" talks about human origins and ties, one to another. When we attend Mass and when we care for our neighbours, we manifest both our origins and ties.
SIGN OF PEACE
When we offer the Sign of Peace to those around us at Mass, we manifest our ties with them. Our common origins and ties are neither dissoluble legally nor blood-based: Jesus Christ is our anchor to "communion."
The incarnation of God the Son, which we celebrated at Christmas, brings about human and divine relationships: "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1.14). One form of this relationship is what is announced by the priest, at Mass, when he says, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
Foremost, it announces the communion in the Trinity, and, then, our participation in that communion. When we attend Mass, which is the action of the Trinity, our participation in divine communion reaches its apogee. But the communion we share and display at every Eucharist celebration has an extra-Eucharistic dimension.
Our communion with God is not limited to the Mass.
We enter each Eucharistic celebration as members of Christ's body, bought and paid for by the blood of the Lamb without stain, Jesus Christ. The drama of redemption – the source and origin of communion – accomplishes divine-human relationship, or vertical communion. The estrangement which existed on account of sin was toppled and overcome by the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
The paschal mystery, which comes to life at every Eucharistic celebration, manifests the origin of our communion with God.
This vertical communion orients itself toward horizontal or inter-human communion. In other words, salvation was never a lone reality, but collective. All were redeemed by Christ and offered salvation as grace or free gift, subject to acceptance.
God's singular intervention in human history, through the Incarnation of his Son, announces much more than God's presence to his creation: it proclaims the presence of creation to God and inter-creational communion.
Human beings are implicated as the cast in a human-divine drama. As God is present to us, we need to be present to one another in concrete display of love and sacrifice.
Yes, just as "with your spirit" announces the power of God at work in and among us, "communion," vertical and horizontal, manifests our wholeness as the one Body of Christ, with duties and responsibilities to one another.
Yes, even when the alternate formula "peace be with you" is used, we remember that "peace-shalom" reminds us of fullness: the integral redemption of humanity, soul, body and spirit. We are related and bonded together by God in all spheres of our lives.
The invisible Spirit of God finds visible channels of communication of love and sacrifice-compassion in visible human beings through communion. Communion opens us up to one another and to the divine.
Communion assures us that God is never absent in our lives, and makes us ever present in God's life. Communion eradicates the "I" syndrome and replaces it with "we" consciousness.
With God, there is only communion and no lonesomeness – "May the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
Spiritan Father Ayodele Ayeni is a sessional lecturer at Newman Theological College and pastor of Mary Help of Christians (Chinese) Parish in Edmonton.