Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Friday, January 14, 2005

Marks of a Church: Inclusiveness

If it is Christ who determines the purpose and mission of the church, then it is the church's mission to be the type of community that embodies the message of Christ. The importance of living out faith among a community should not be overlooked. Since the creation of man, God intended for individuals to live together in community. Even though the idea of community runs deep in Scripture, inclusiveness should be one distinct mark of ecclesiology. Similar to the parable of the invited dinner guests, the church's reach extends to those outside its perimeter. The invitation includes those on the edge of society such as the homeless, foreigners, scoundrels, gays, society's "unclean", elderly people and the like. If a community excluded the weak and seemingly insignificant, then does that mean the exclusion of the Messiah simultaneously? For St. Benedict, receiving others into their community resembled the act of receiving Christ. Likewise, the co-creator of the Catholic Worker , Dorothy Day's attitude of inclusiveness sought to engage others, as one would do for Jesus. Day practiced the discipline of seeing Christ in others, especially when she was incarcerated for participating in a peaceful protest: "Jesus is the fat lady. Jesus is this unfortunate girl, Jackie, who is making advances towards me. Jesus is Baby Doll, her cellmate." With this mindset, the practice of inclusiveness places the importance of belonging to the community before believing correctly. As the Rule of St. Benedict stated, any visiting guest or wandering pilgrim wishing to bind himself to the community should be received as a member. Will our churches become a display of society's untouchables as well as the "normals" living together, not claiming private ownership of any possessions, but everything held in common? Will we accept all who come to the table of grace, even if it means our reputation? Will we accept the bare minimum of toleration for those on the outside or will we fully practice radical impartial love to all humankind?