Ongoing Formation Series (OGF) AY 2017-2018 Talk 1
From the moment of its birth, communion was meant to be a mark of the Church. It is after all as Vatican II clearly taught, the People of God. It is not an edifice or building but “the people loved by God and called into a communion of life and love with Him and with one another.”
Speaking on the Church as Communion, Professor of Dogmatic Theology Fr. Anthony Nguyen, SDB began the Ongoing Formation Series (OGF) for AY 2017-2018 at Don Bosco Center of Studies (DBCS) last August 14. This year’s theme focuses on the Year of the Parish in the Philippines, which is part of the Church’s nine-year preparation for the five hundredth celebration of Christianity in the country.
“Communion in the Church is not the result of human effort but it is a grace from God,” emphasized Fr. Nguyen. Communion between God and man, and communion between men is a gift made possible by the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Trinitarian God: The Father calls us to communion, this in turn is realized in Christ the Word made flesh, and perfected by the power of the Spirit.
“Communion is a touch from within — the inner touch of God,” explained Fr. Nguyen. Our communion with Him is the foundation of our communion with one another. Thus, communion first points us to our dependence on God, and second it leads us also to recognize our need for one another. The distinction and uniqueness of each human person, the things that make us different are essential to communion; the gifts that each one brings help to enrich this communion, and allow us to complete one another.
This communion is concretely seen in the lived experience of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) or as they are called in Guagua, Pampanga, Small Caring Groups (SCGs). Michael B. Lapid, who teaches Biblical Theology, talked about the realities in pastoral ministry. He organized SCGs in ten barangays in Guagau and continues to animate them.
In their weekly meetings where members of SCGs pray together and reflect on the Word of God, they also share their concerns with one another. “They talk about their experiences without embellishment and they do not care what other people may think. For example, one would say, ‘I drank so much last night!’ They are very honest,” shared Mr. Lapid.
He observed that “transformation of individuals really happens in these weekly meetings. The Word of God indeed transforms the members — the way they think, act, and the decisions they make.” It is the power of the Word of God that makes this possible.
“Their knowledge of one another becomes deeper. And their concern for one another becomes real and solwly a real community emerges. And the bonds created by the Word of God is palpable. It is the Spirit who creates these communities that begin to care for one another,” he explained.
Mr. Lapid pointed to the Washing of the Feet in the Gospel of John as the Paradigm of True Communion. Here, Jesus loved his disciples in a way unimaginable by human standards, he said. Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, Peter would deny him, and that the others will not understand what he is doing, yet He still washed their feet. It is an act of self-gift even to death that anticipates His sacrifice on the Cross. God’s love is indeed “all-inclusive and consummate.” It does not exclude anyone, even Judas — this is the perfect paradigm for BECs that should continue to look at Jesus as model.
Like Mr. Lapid, Fr. Nguyen underscored the importance of looking to God, of being touched from within by His grace. This is essential, especially as we face innumerable challenges in reaching out to others.
The Church in Asia is especially tasked to work toward communion in a region where there are diverse languages, cultures, religions, etc. The Church needs to be a “home for anyone,” and is called to be “united with suffering humanity.”
It is a call that each of us, in his or her own way can respond to. And it starts by being more open, more sensitive to the needs of others. As Fr. Nguyen said, “Communion happens when we enter the other person’s skin and feel the other’s emotions and experiences.”
Maria Divina Solano, MRS, MATh is a graduate of Don Bosco Center of Studies. She is the Research Coordinator and a guest professor teaching Theology and Spirituality of the Laity.