Alone or Together?

bigstock Group of People ParkBelonging is part of being human. Right from the start we are nurtured in the womb of our mothers, and placed into their arms for nourishment, comfort and security. Things get a bit complicated after that, of course, as we seek to establish ourselves and assert our autonomy, but the pattern is set: human beings primarily discover who they are in relationship.

And yet when it comes to the spiritual side of things, we live in an age that increasingly thinks the best thing to do is ‘go it alone’. So fraught can this side of life be that many of us learn to keep these things to ourselves, and often walk alone as we seek to work out the way forward. This is particularly so in an age characterised by the rejection of the ‘religious’ in favour of the ‘spiritual’, and the rejection of the institution in favour of the individual.

This is a problem when it comes to Christianity. For while it does indeed hold as sacred the individual’s personal relationship with God, it is instinctively a spirituality of belonging. By accepting a relationship with Jesus Christ, each of us automatically becomes a brother or a sister to others who have done the same. The Christian faith, while it belongs to each one of us, is not ours alone.

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In number 6 of Gaudete et Exsultate we read: "we are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people."

I don't know about you, but I find this problematic at times. Dealing with a faith community can be difficult, particularly at time when we are all very aware that that community is often far from perfect. The problem is, if we are waiting for perfection we will be waiting for an eternity. Our faith, if it is to be real, draws us in to relationship with others who are seeking to live that faith, with all its inadequacies.

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This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.