Change is one of the characteristics of living things. If something is alive, every day it experiences a visible or invisible transformation. This is also true of the Church, which is always growing – not changing into something different but becoming more fully itself. In today’s first reading, we learn about the choice of the first seven deacons, an event which shows that the Church adapts and responds in new ways to the challenges and needs of the times. Thus, the Church is truly alive.
The Church, then, is not limited to her established visible structures. She is made up of living people, united by one faith. All of us who believe in Jesus Christ compose the Church – which, as St. Peter tells us in the second reading, is a “spiritual house.” Each of us is one of the “living stones” that make up the living Church, the Body of Christ. However, stones do not make a house if they stand alone. They must be gathered together and built upon a strong foundation, the Apostles, with Jesus himself as the “cornerstone, chosen and precious.”
In the first reading we can see that that “stones” are not all the same. There are different gifts at work in different people. There are Apostles who are assigned to “prayer and to the ministry of the word,” and there are “reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom,” who are assigned to “serve at table.” There are ministers and preachers, administrators, teachers, and those who take care of the practical needs of the community and other social issues – like the first deacons. We all have different tasks in the Church, but we are bound together by one faith in Christ; we do not stand alone. Together in the community of the Lord’s Church we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.”
Jesus Christ is “the stone that the builders rejected.” Those who do not have faith “stumble” over him. But for us who believe, he is the living Cornerstone who unites us and who makes the Church alive. Because of him there is a Church; without him there is no Church. As long as we are built upon him, we continue to be living stones in the Church.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel that he is “the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He is the way because He is the only way to the Father, the only way to salvation. We are firm in our conviction that anyone who is saved is saved by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, even if they do not yet know that he is the Way. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). We do not subscribe to the modern idea that there are many equal paths that all lead to the same mountaintop. Whatever path leads us to union with God is effective only insofar as it is the Way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Truth, the one and only Truth. This fact calls us to be quite counter-cultural too. As the world teaches variety of “truths,” and as moral relativism flourishes, we stand our ground and live and believe the one Truth of Jesus. We Christians should be identified by our strong moral standards which are based on the Truth, not on what is “politically correct.” Jesus is the true answer to our questions. He is, as Pope Benedict says in this week’s Spiritual Reflection, “the truth that gives meaning to human existence.”
If we follow Jesus’ Way and live by his Truth, we will surely have the eternal Life that we all hope for, for he himself is Life. There are several accounts in the Gospels where Jesus restores life to people who have died. He also restores the health of many sick people that they may have fullness in their earthly life. But more than the restoration of this temporary life, what he really wants us to experience is eternal life, which he has prepared for us in the Father’s house. Only through Jesus can we gain access to this fullness of life.
Jesus, “the Way and the Truth and the Life,” is the Source of our spiritual and bodily life, the Source of the life of the Church. He who lives forever will make his Church live forever. He continues to call people to be the new living stones of the Church. May all whom he calls to his Church accept the invitation and let our lives be led “out of darkness into his wonderful light”!
How do I adapt and respond to the challenges and needs in my daily life and in the life of the Church? Am I firm in my conviction that I am saved only by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ? As a Christian, are my moral standards based on the Truth which is Jesus, who alone gives meaning to my human existence?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.