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A diamond, in the rough.
No. The title is not a misprint. Think “mine” like a diamond mine.
Pope Francis has spent two Wednesday Audiences teaching about the Communion of Saints. This week he focused not on the community of persons but the community of holy things that we share. What we share are the Sacraments, charisms, and charity.
While considering the Holy Father’s words, I could not help thinking of a family around the dinner table. All enjoy the same meal, which is the fruit of the sacrifice and work of the parents. But a good meal is not all that is shared. Because, even when we may not all help set the table or carry a plate of green beans or pour the milk, everybody brings something to the table. And the most important think we bring to the table is the gifts that we contain within ourselves.
The Sacraments, the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice, are what is commonly shared by all of us. In God’s plan for us, they are central and of utmost importance. We approach the Sacraments knowing that Jesus wants what is best for us. In classic Pope Francis fashion, he allays fears about confession by saying that “the priest isn’t going to beat you with a stick,” but it Christ Himself who longs to embrace you.
But what struck me most in the Holy Father’s teaching was the second point. We often think of things as exclusively “yours” or “mine.” “Mine” is one of the first words you hear toddlers say, often when grabbing at a toy.
Our Faith invites us to see the world in a new, wonderful way. All that we see is a gift from God. And we, too, are gifts for those around us. We have not been given these gifts for ourselves, but as the stubborn ore from which to forge families and communities. I bring out the best in me so that you can be the best you can be.
I am not mine. I am, in a sense, your mine, a place where God has placed jewels that will enrich you. And you are my mine. And others are ours.
“The charisms – a somewhat difficult word – are presents that the Holy Spirit gives us, abilities, possibilities … Presents given not for them to be hidden, but to share with others. They are not given for the benefit of the one who receives them, but for the benefit of the People of God.”
The word “charism” is often used very specifically as the inspiration given to one person to start a work within the Church, like a religious order. But the Pope’s thought can be applied widely. One’s ability to make others laugh or put them at ease or teach piano or bake amazing brownies are gifts that not everyone has (how boring would it be if the orchestra was just a kazoo ensemble playing one melody line?), and therefore God puts these treasures in different places so that they can be discovered and offered to the community. It is this very offering that makes a community.
And in the Church, there is an easy test to see if the gift is real: Does it serve the Church’s holiness and mission? (I would not read that too narrowly. I have been drawn closer to God by amazing brownies.)
“The charisms are particular graces given to some to do good to many others. They are attitudes, inspirations and interior impulses, which are born in the conscience and in the experience of specific persons, who are called to put them at the service of the community. In particular, these spiritual gifts are for the advantage of the sanctity of the Church and of her mission.”
And the fruit of this sharing of gifts is the supreme gift of charity. It is almost like that magical overtone when I sing my note well and you sing yours and the chord clicks and we marvel at something wonderful that we both helped bring into being. But, in order for this charity to exist, I have to pay more attention to you than to myself. I have to adjust to you, not fall in love with the sound of my own voice and see you as a mere back-up singer to my Diva-ness.
“And often we are too arid, indifferent, detached and, instead of transmitting fraternity, we transmit ill humor, coldness, egoism. And with ill humor, coldness, egoism we cannot make the Church grow; the Church grows only with the love that comes from the Holy Spirit. The Lord invites us to open ourselves to communion with Him, in the sacraments, in the charisms and in charity, to live in a worthy way our Christian vocation!”
The Holy Father ended the Audience by asking for a moment of unity. He spoke of a family he met with a baby suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, and the crowd in a moment of prayer for that intention.
“And now I permit myself to ask you for an act of charity: be at peace there won’t be a collection! Before coming to the Square I went to meet a one-and-a half-year-old girl with a very serious illness. Her father and mother pray, and they ask the Lord for health for this beautiful child. Her name is Noemi. The poor little thing smiled! Let us do an act of love. We do not know her, but she is a baptized child, she is one of us, she is a Christian. Let us do an act of love for her and in silence let us ask that the Lord help her at this moment and give her health. In silence for an instant, and then we will pray the Hail Mary. And now all together we pray to Our Lady for Noemi’s health. Hail Mary … [The crowd prays with the Pope.] Thank you for this act of charity.”
And the crowd united their hearts and brought forth the jewels from their own mine, and for a brief moment the world saw what the world could truly be: a true community, united in heart, sparkling with a light from above reflected in a plaza full of diamonds.