Bishop Neary: Deep down we are one body in Christ

I have always loved this passage from Hebrews 13:2: “Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it.”  

By Bishop Neary, C.S.C.

In having lived part of my life in Mexico City, Santiago, Chile, as well as Kenya and Uganda in East Africa, I have come to understand that as Catholics we have a very large family — about 1.3 billion strong across the globe — and so we have many brothers and sisters whom we will only finally meet in heaven.

In our increasingly individualistic and privatized world, however, our smart phones too often have replaced conversation or our ability to be present to others. Our homes have almost become secular temples where we search for happiness through countless social media platforms, apps and streaming services that keep us entertained but risk ultimately separating us and isolating us from others. There is a declining sense in our country of the common good, a growing sense of alienation and a decline in participation in service organizations.

In our synodal listening sessions, many of us were surprised to learn that even in our parishes, new arrivals or visitors can feel unnoticed or even unwelcomed. In larger parishes, we may not know a lot of the people who are at Mass with us.

Given that our lives center around the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives as Catholics, we are in intimate communion with Christ, with all the saints, martyrs and our deceased loved ones, and especially with one another whenever we gather around the Lord’s table and receive Communion. We know intuitively, as Catholics, that deep down we are one body in Christ, and members, one of another.

Christ in the Eucharist calls us to become better bridge-builders in a world where alienation and loneliness is increasing. The question before us is: How are we welcoming and inviting and being Christ for one another? We have a wonderful opportunity in the assignment of 10 new pastors in our diocese, as well as the fun-filled parish festivals that will soon begin, to think of creative ways of meeting our neighbors and welcoming new people to our parishes.

Summertime will provide ample opportunities for us to welcome visitors to our lakes and towns. Yet even beyond the summer, what can we do to become better connected, not only with each other, but with immigrants and newcomers? Can I introduce myself to at least one person I don’t know after Mass each Sunday? Can I sign up to volunteer at a parish event or service project to expand my circle of parish friends? Perhaps I can seek ways to more directly connect with those in need through my parish’s own outreach programs or through Catholic Charities? Again, the goal is to become better bridge builders.

In the end, I’ll find that I was welcoming angels or Christ himself in extending friendship and hospitality to all that I encountered in my daily life.

Yours in Christ,

+ Bishop Patrick M. Neary, C.S.C., the 10th bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

(Featured photo: Bishop Patrick Neary talks with Margarita Cervantes and Marco Antonio Ahedo before the second annual Honoring Marriage Day for the Latino community Feb. 25 at Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre. (Photo by Dianne Towalski)

Author: Bishop Patrick Neary, C.S.C.

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