A Reflection from the Christian Traditions: THE DOORS MUST ALWAYS BE OPEN by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
THE DOORS MUST ALWAYS BE OPEN
(A Reflection from the Christian Traditions)
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The days of Pentecost are fast upon us. For most of us, we are spending the Easter Season sheltered at home. This is a most unusual time and, perhaps, our lives will never be the same. We now have a heightened sensitivity as to what it means to have a friend, be a family, and belong to a close-knit community. We have discovered some things about what it means to be a Church and it has little to do with buildings or formal institutions.
A few weeks ago, I came across an editorial cartoon in an ecumenically sensitive Christian Magazine. The cartoon was simple and pointed. There was a simple sketch of a Church building with locked doors. The sign next to the building said, “The building is closed but the Church is open!” The cartoon, inspired by the tragic circumstances of the pandemic, is quite challenging as it affords us the opportunity to stop and think about what it means to be Church.
The Justice Department recently sent a letter to California’s Governor warning that the stay at home orders might be in violation of the freedom of religion clause. The shortsightedness of the Justice Department ignores the truth that the Church is not primarily a building in which people gather but a people who live for the sake of others. The Church closed its building so it could keep people safe. The Church prayed in the solitude of being sheltered at home. The Church went outside into parking lots where long lines of hungry people were fed and encouraged. The Church went on-line to pray, teach, and comfort. The Church sang songs of gratitude and praise out the windows of homes and apartments to bless those dedicated to the service of others. The Church gathered as families around their tables remembering Jesus as they comforted one another. The Church community was never so free as when the people who constitute the Church gave of themselves with prayer and tears, concern and compassion, and self-giving and love.
The Spirit of the Church was poured out when a health care provider held the hand of a dying patient. The Soul of the Church was manifested when people reached out to one another. The mind of the Church was revealed when the rites and rituals were suspended for the safety and well-being of all.
The Spirit of Jesus invites us to be people of gratitude for the fortitude and generosity of so many who helped and continue to help the afflicted, hurting, and dying. This is not a time to play political games but express gratitude in our deeds of generosity. Pope Francis wrote in his Joy of the Gospel, “The doors of the Church must always be open!” The building might be open or closed depending on the circumstances of life. But, the doors of the Church which symbolize the hearts of the disciples of Jesus are always open.
As we long for our buildings to open and slowly and responsibly return to some semblance of what was, let us not forget that we are never so free as when we are free to be of caring service to others. We are truly Church when our hearts are open no matter what the circumstances. Thank you for opening the doors of your hearts.