While reading CNN in Reno Nevada the article “Seven reasons Catholics leave church,” was discovered. Reno, Nevada, of course has the same problems the Catholic Church in general has. The story was also found in Reno Nevada of a Rabbi who claimed that if given any child, he could raise that child in any religious faith, and that child would rather die than leave that faith. His point is that it is not a matter of that faith being in the right God, or worshipping that God in the right way. What is important is not dogmatics or doctrine.
As a Rabbi, he knows the importance of what the Jewish community calls the Shema, “Hear Israel (those who struggle with God) the Personal Name is our Might Judge, the Personal Name is One.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Jesus quotes that passage in Mark 12:28-34. We call it the Great Commandment.
The essence of the Great Commandment is community. “Hear, Israel,” “Hear you who struggle with God.” The people first hearing that commandment were the Jewish people escaping from bondage in Egypt. A century ago, it was people trying to escape the bondage of poverty in Europe. A half century ago, and today, it is those escaping the bondage of poverty in Appalachia, the reservations in the west, and the suffering of segregation in the Deep South. We struggle as a community. When we look at the top seven reasons for leaving the church, in that article read in Reno, Nevada, we read: “So it was just a place to attend Mass. And because attending Mass was a guilt-ridden obligation, I was always alone in a crowd where I knew no one and no one knew me.”
“Community,” comes from Latin roots, “Com,” “With” and “Mu-,” “To bind.” In community we are bound up, one with another. If we do not know the person sitting to our left or to our right, if we do not know the name of the person sitting to the left or to our right, how can we be a community?
Many of us at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada do not know each other. We may have several hundred attend any given Mass on Sunday morning. The first Sunday of every month, our Cathedral has coffee and doughnuts. Maybe a dozen or so people arrive for the free treat. This is important, not because we need to fill up on high cholesterol doughnuts, or coffee high in caffeine, but because we need to develop community. During Mass, we have the “Sharing the Peace.” Many want to say exactly that and view it an insult if anyone says anything else. This is a translation of “Shalom Aleichem.” The parishioners in the earliest church said this. People in America do not say this. We need to introduce ourselves and learn about each other. This is the time to work on community.
“A number of people responded that homilies, weekly Sunday messages from the priest, did not relate or “speak to” them.” When we leave Mass, we need to discuss with Father what we thought of his homily, the good, and the bad. When Father has a class on Gospel and Torah, we need to attend. This is not so we can learn the official version of things, but so we can give our input. Right or wrong, Father will know where we are at theologically, and be able to formulate his homilies to speak to us.
If we start in these simple steps, we will start to bind ourselves to each other. We will become community. The rabbi’s statement will be true. The gates of hell will not take us from our community, the Catholic/ Universal Church.