Words are not merely labels. They deliver concepts and images that guide and steer us through life. A fragmented society tends to devalue words so as to, even unconsciously, threaten the concepts it dislikes.
Take the word community. Once it meant “two or more people who freely choose to live together in order to pursue a common purpose”. After the Blairite years that word has been certainly devalued to such an extent that before brandishing it out we need to be careful at what various people are understanding exactly when they hear that word.
A community today can mean a neighbourhood, which alters the definition to its core. This kind of community must be defined as “two or more people who for various reasons happen to live next to each other and maybe are trying to form some common ground”, like a campaign for better street lighting.
A community today can also mean a pressure group, or even individuals around the globe who through the new means of communication promote or defend a common cause, like a “virtual community to promote stamp collecting of a particular region”; or a pressure group community like the LGBT Community.
This different and new definition of community is being applied willy-nilly to various organisations and institutions, even to Christians. We hear of the Catholic Community or Faith communities.
Engaged in the New Evangelisation this new way of being community is not a great help. This word is so overused that it has become tired. It is a given that when applying for grants or permissions the word “community” has to appear to earn you extra leverage. I asked some young people recently what image does the word community bring to their mind and they replied that they thought of an old-fashioned basic and almost adequate village hall, which they really would rather not frequent.
Here is where an important word comes in. Communion. Communion is not to be defined against community. Communion is the salt for communities, the leaven for them if they so wish. Communion enlightens communities and attracts members of communities to enter into communion. The creed speaks of communion not community. Communities need leaders; communion needs servants engaged in the washing of the feet. Even when stretched to the limits the bonds of communion do not break, even if they are deformed. At the heart of community is an ideal. At the heart of Communion is a person: Christ. Community relies on individuals, Communion relies on becoming one: the sharing of one bread and one cup that makes us one…
Maybe we have focused for too long on community rather then communion. Sometimes Christians allow the secular world to set their agenda. This means that we react rather then respond and contribute. Communion has an agenda, a Divine one. It is the agenda of Truth and Love and Faithfullness.
There is no way one can say something deep in these few lines and this forum. It is just a humble and rough pointer. These are just words; but words bring up images and concepts that help us on the Way.
As we approach the month of May, I look to Mary the Star of the New Evangelisation and ponder to see how she lived out this Communion.