Religious life is a mystery. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand it. Dr. George Kaitholil, in his book “Communion in the Community” explains more about religious community life. He proposes simple and ordinary things that are very useful for keeping the community united, and in building up participation and fraternal spirit. Some of the things are community prayers, community meals, community recreation, community celebrations, community apostolate, community meetings, community projects, community evaluation, community picnic, community gathering, community recollection, community planning and community discernment. The question that follows now is, “Are religious men and women able to build up communities using these things?
When Jesus called the Twelve to share his way of life, he founded his Church, that is to say, a supernatural community united around himself and later around the apostles. In grouping them around himself, he showed them that, in order to follow him, men must first unite and form one heart and one soul. This is the spirit of the early Christians which we find in Acts 4: 32, whereby the believers shared their possessions unreservedly.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God has given us this gift of life to be one in Christ through communion in our communities. Community life gives joy only if there is communion among the members. Therefore brotherly affection and oneness of heart need to be constantly nourished. We do experience the presence of the risen Lord in fraternal communion. Fraternal communion comes by means of mutual Love, which should be real love from God. A community without Love is a dead community. The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans chapter 13 says Love is the fulfillment of the law. Let us develop pure Love in our Religious communities so that all of us can continue answering God`s call.
The challenge to community life sometimes is the fact that individual members come from different families with diverse behaviors. We can do nothing about these different backgrounds. However, the establishment of interpersonal relationships is the first step in building our communities. Each individual member must have a sense of responsibility towards the community and each member must feel as part of the community. In order to have a community feeling each member of the community must develop the good habit of Prayer life, Sharing, Loving, openness, and working together. To live community life well, all the members have to take an active part in reading together the reality, in sharing prayer and spirituality, in working side by side and thus in growing as brothers or sisters in the religious life.
Interpersonal relationships, aimed at building communities are further challenged by technology. Nowadays its like our members of the communities are smartphones, tablets, laptops and television. We often fail to be together with our members of the community because of technology. In his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis recently warned the Christians to put down their phones in church emphasizing that phones are a distraction that takes away focus from the heart of the church which is the Eucharist. Obviously more is expected from the leaders who must lead their flock by example. Every religious must know that technology can be put into better use of spreading the word of God but ought not to disturb our religious life. How can one develop interpersonal relationships and proclaim the good news of Christ if he or she is always busy with technological gadgets? This endangers our call and the core of religious life.
Today God is reminding everyone to wake up the world and to be in relationship with Jesus Christ through the communities where we are living. Let us ask God’s Holy Spirit to enlighten all of us to love our communities, to develop the heart of sharing what we have with our brothers or sisters, to take part on what is happening in the community. In so doing we can serve God better and imitate the life of Christ. God bless all the religious communities and everyone who is reading this.