We need each other

It doesn’t take much research to discover that human beings need other human beings. Let’s take a quick scan of history:

To begin, I would like to start with Aristotle. Aristotle in his work “Politics,” stated that “man is by nature a political animal.” He believed that human beings formed associations (cities or other political entities) to achieve a common good. It was only when we were associated with such a group that we could come to fully understand ourselves.

If we jump ahead a few hundred years, we hear Jesus say in Matthew’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

Now to the 21st century (told you I this would be a quick scan!), when I heard Cardinal Timothy Dolan on a radio program a few years ago. He was stating his belief that the biggest problem when it comes to religion in America, is that so many are trying to believe, but not belong. It was his observation that God has always dealt with us as a people. Our faith tells us that there is indeed an individual aspect to faith, but it is only to help orient ourselves to the faith community. 

Everything about our faith is relational because everything about the human person is relational. God loves us with a perfect love. His desire is that each of us respond by seeking a loving relationship with Him. This love response though is connected to each other. Remember this story: 

 “One of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which Commandment in the law is the greatest?’

“‘He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

“‘This is the greatest and the first Commandment.

“‘The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

“‘The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’” (Mt 22:36-40).

So, when we are baptized, we are baptized into a community, a family of faith. With this “membership” comes a responsibility: 

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

We are commanded to invite others into this relationship. In doing so, our faith is strengthened and others come to know of the peace, love and joy found in having a relationship with the Lord.

So, how do we build up this family of faith? We first witness to the faith ourselves and second, we look for opportunities to share the Word of God. We accomplish this through communication and building relationships with others. In our interactions with others we are the face of our parish, our Church and of Jesus Himself.

Enter into the equation, technology. Social media, Skype, cellphones, email, etc. Let us work from the premise that these are staples of communication with one another in the year 2014. It is going to be more and more the case that those who do not utilize most of these will soon be out of touch from the rest of the world and in fact would not be marketable in the job market.

These are the tools that we not only socialize with, but we utilize them in our education (formal and informal), in our decision-making processes, in our business and in how we raise our families. While there are concerns that we need to be aware of, the reality is social media does help in building relationships if used properly. Therefore, it must be a way that we also communicate the Word of God, grow in faith and nurture our relationships with others.

How easy it is to witness to the faith in 2014. It can be as simple as posting when we are at Mass, sharing a tweet from Pope Francis or sharing a video from Father Barron. One of the tasks I am constantly engaged in is finding new online resources to share with my parishioners and students on our parish website and the college campus ministry sites. Our challenge is going to be making sure that we are still maintaining relationships with others, even in these activities. 

There are platforms that we are exploring at UMass Dartmouth Catholic Campus Ministry that would allow us to do gathered Faith Formation activities online. We already have many resources available to students and others who are interested in learning more about their faith. However, as human history and our faith tell us, we are not meant to do everything by ourselves. In order to truly grow in relationship with God, we need to be in relationship with others.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College in Fall River.

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