Today’s scriptures parallel one another in presenting us with images of brothers in community. Genesis portrays the sons of Jacob who are blood brothers, though born of different mothers. In Matthew, Jesus is gathering a community of “brothers” as followers. Some of these are pairs of blood brothers, namely Peter and Andrew, James and John. The others in the group have been paired together as “brothers” to share with the blood brothers in Jesus’ itinerant ministry of exorcism and the healing of diseases. But this group of twelve also has a representative role. Their number and gender symbolize a reconstituted Israel, the nation of twelve tribes descended from the patriarch’s sons. They are being chosen and given authority to act as a focus for the gathering Jesus movement. In company with other “brothers”—and sisters too—they are being empowered to proclaim in word and deed that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
The SSJE Rule of Life teaches that it is God alone who has called us brothers of the Society into being as a community. We may experience our individual differences of background, temperament, gifts, personality and style as making our aggregate a similar, or perhaps even more, unlikely representation of the whole people of God as Jesus’ chosen twelve were. Yet as a Society, we witness to the truth that every created human person is called, out of separateness and isolation, into communities of personal cooperation and interdependence. By bearing witness to the social nature of human life, our visible shared life acts to help other people remember their own calling to form community.
“Every Christian”, says the Rule, “is called to live in community as a member of the Church”, Christ’s mystical body. It is Christ, the Eternal Wisdom, who “draws each disciple into that particular expression of community which will be the best means for his or her conversion” and transformation. Only in the challenges and gifts of day-to-day living as members of the communities to which Christ has called them is each person paradoxically formed as the unique image and likeness of God which only she or he can be. This mystery of individual wholeness found only in community reflects the very nature of the Triune God who we come together to worship at this hour.
We come to Christ’s table, in all our brokenness and need, as the Psalmist says, “to wait upon [the] love” of the One who first brought us into being. With Joseph and his brothers, with the Twelve and their brothers and sisters, we too desire that our lives may be “plucked from death”, that we may be fed “in time of famine”. Through the nourishment of Christ’s Body and Blood taken in communion with God and one another, we seek courage and strength for the challenges of life together by which we are made our true selves.
How then shall we offer ourselves this day to the refining fire of that community of love which is God? In prayer, let us ask for hearts of compassion and humility which can accept, as God does, “the particular fragility, complexity and incompleteness of each” of our brothers and sisters. Together let us pray to share in Christ’s radical acceptance of each of us just as we are. Let us pray the Spirit for spontaneity in mutual love and service, and for shared joy in realizing the kingdom of heaven together, now on earth.
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