“The faithful are fed by Christ's holy body and blood to grow in the communion of the Holy Spirit (koinonia) and to communicate it to the world.” (CCC, 948).
The Church in the United States is a community of faith that is composed of members of many different cultures. Respect, understanding, and openness to this diversity is key to assisting all in having a personal encounter with Christ and growing as missionary disciples.
Koinonia: A Deeper Understanding of Community
When we talk about community and fellowship in a context of missionary discipleship, we mean more than simply an assembly of like persons who share a belief system and who mutually affirm each other. No, the kind of community we are seeking goes much deeper - depicings an interactive relationship between God and believers who are sharing new life through Christ.
The Greek word koinonia captures the entirety of this relationship. It is more than our fellowship groups having fellowship luncheons held in fellowship halls. Throughout the New Testament, koinonia is revealed to be more than an informal social gathering. It is a connection between those who share our primary identity of baptized sons and daughters of God. Koinonia can be used for a particular aspect of Christianity, or the dynamic whole of Christian living. It depicts an interactive relationship between God and believers who are sharing new life through Christ. It means that we recognize, at the core of our being, that Christ is what connects us. That we are the mystical body of Christ.
True fellowship and hospitality extends to all members of the community: new and established parishioners, especially children and youth, young adults, the newly married and parents, the divorced or widowed, immigrants, those seeking assistance, and those who feel alienated from the Church. On a practical level, it can be fostered by things like warm words from the pastor, offering Mass and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation at convenient times, ensuring accessibility of worship and inclusion for those with physical and mental disabilities, and using multiple languages, where needed.
Disciples find communion in their families, their parish, and relationships with others.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
- How do we cultivate a communal and missionary spirit within our family?
- Are there areas that we need to work on to strengthen our family as a community of faith?
Questions for Pastoral / Parish Leader Reflection:
- In what ways can we offer more ongoing formation and support of family life?
- How can we become a more welcoming parish community? Where are the areas for growth?
This article is adapted from an excerpt from Living as Missionary Disciples: A Resource for Evangelization (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2017) 31. Publication no. 7-558. Copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington DC. All rights reserved. Used with permission.