One of the wonderful things about being a pastor on Cape Cod is the standing-room-only Masses that take place every weekend during the summer. Being surrounded by such a large and active community is exhilarating!
I came across this eye-catching title a few weeks ago on a post online. It started with the line, “Jesus is not enough.” And that certainly got my attention. My initial thought, of course, was that Jesus is enough. Jesus is all that we need. One of my favorite simple prayers of St. Francis of Assisi is, “Jesus, you are enough for me.”
What this post was talking about, though, was the attitude that seems to be growing in strength in our world today that says all I need is a personal relationship with Jesus and I do not need the community of the Church. This comes from people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious, or from those who have become hurt or angry with the Church over the years, or those who find themselves in disagreement with certain Church teachings or stances. This is one possible explanation behind the so-called “nones” — those who when asked by pollsters what denomination they belong to answer, “None.” About 30 percent of Americans identify this way today. And, more prevalent to our contemporary situation, there are those who stopped going to church during the pandemic and just never returned, determining that they didn’t really need the church experience in their life. There are varying reasons for this notion of just Jesus and me.
What gets lost in that notion, though, is the reality that the Church is the whole reason for Jesus. Yes, we need to have that personal relationship with Jesus. Yes, that is what makes all of the difference. But Jesus gave us the Church as the place and the means and the way to have that relationship. The Sacraments themselves are real, tangible encounters with Jesus — the means that He left us to commune with Him.
The whole point of Christianity is that it is communal; it is not an individual faith experience. If it were, becoming a Christian would involve the Sacraments of Initiation, then we’d hand you a Bible and wish you luck on that journey. Instead, we come together every week to pray. We gather to hear God’s Word. We gather to be forgiven the ways that we have failed on our path. We gather to support others who need our help. We gather to celebrate together. We gather to grieve together. We gather in all of the important moments in life with Christ at the center because “wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” We gather to be stronger together in Christ than we could ever be apart. There is a reason why the image that we have for the Church from Scripture is the Body of Christ — immersed, intertwined, dependent, involved with each other.
So, yes, Jesus alone is not enough. Jesus, as experienced in and through the Church, is what we need. You can’t serve from your sofa. You can’t have a community of faith alone in your living room. You can’t experience the power of a room full of believers worshiping together in the solitude of your bedroom.
To paraphrase that online post, Christians aren’t consumers. Christianity isn’t something we consume. We are contributors. We don’t watch. We engage. We give. We sacrifice. We encourage. We pray for each other when we’re hurting. We walk this journey of faith together — side by side all the way to the Kingdom.
Jesus alone is not enough. We need the Church and the Church needs each one of us. I’ve been reminded of that powerfully these past summer months. Let us remind the world.
Father Washburn is pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich.