Two days ago (Ash Wednesday) I was walking through the supermarket, trying to remember what I needed to get. Suddenly, a woman pushing a trolley with a young child, called out to me.
“Catholic! You can always tell the Catholics on Ash Wednesday!” Admittedly, I initially freaked out – some random calling out to me in the supermarket?! But then I realised what she was referring to: both of us had a dark, ashy smudge on our foreheads. I laughed and waved back at her, and after that we both continued with our shopping.
It was a pretty cool experience. I mean, how often do you have a total stranger greet you in public just because you’re Catholic? It helped me see again the bond that all Catholics share through the Church. And if I’m going to be honest, it made me feel good. I felt like part of a family, rather than just another face wandering through the supermarket.
That’s one of the awesome powers of the Church. Being baptised into the Church isn’t about being ‘an elect’ or a member of some secret group; it’s not just about a certain community either. In the Church, we are made one. You and I are united in practice, in worship, in faith, and – most importantly – in Christ. And this should help us love each other!
To be honest, this is something that I forget about all the time. But it’s so important, because it helps build the strength of the Church.
A ministry that I love being involved in is intercessory prayer. Being able to pray for people’s struggles, hardships, worries, temptations, or whatever’s going on in their lives, helps build my own faith. When I forget that any Catholic (or Christian, but there is a closer bond with other Catholics) is a close brother or sister, then my prayers become limited to ‘just those I know’. But at those times when I’m reminded of the ecclesial bonds I share with all Catholics (like this experience in the supermarket), my prayer suddenly widens. Every interaction with another Catholic – at Mass, in a supermarket, at a prayer group, a funeral, wedding – becomes an opportunity to pray for a sibling, and grow in love.
This Lent, how are you going to strengthen the bonds of the Church? It could be something as simple as greeting another Catholic in the supermarket.