Saturday, October 13, 2012

Koinonia (Fellowship)

Five  words from Scripture are sometimes heard in their Greek form, all referring to what a community of Christians should be doing: didache (teaching), diakonia (service), liturgia (worship), kerygma (proclamation) and koinonia (fellowship). All are important, but the one that needs to be stressed today is koinonia.

The need to encourage more fellowship is especially important today because our communities are larger and pastors are busier, and the individual tends to get lost as a nameless member of a congregation with few spiritual ties to other members of the community. 

In preparation for the Bishops Synod, starting on October 7th, the Catholic Church of Korea has emphasized the need to focus attention more on the internal life of the church. Many Catholics believe that the main goal of religion is to bring peace into our lives. Many articles have alluded to this belief, which suggests that the catechizing has not been successful. Although peace is something we all desire, for a Christian, it should not be the goal of life; peace is a by-product of doing God's will, which comes about naturally from a dying to ourselves so as to be born anew. If, instead, the motivation of the Christian remains peace of mind all else is of little interest and the essentials of Christianity will be missing. It can become a selfish pursuit and, ironically, the more pursued the less achieved.

The problem with making peace of mind the goal of Christianity is that Christianity then becomes an individualized pursuit, each person searching for his or her own personal fulfillment without feeling the need to connect with other members of the community: a loss of fellowship, of communication, of sharing that will ultimately bring about the loss of community. 

Loss of community brings with it a loss of faith-sharing among our Christians, which the Church has worked hard in developing over the years, but is conspicuously absent in the life of many Christians today. In the past all Christians would come before the priest as individuals or as a family two times a year, once before Easter and again before Christmas. The process demanded coming to the church and relating with others and the priest, in order to help the Christians to focus on the community rather than on themselves. They were asked to reflect on their lives as Christians. This pastoral approach, though it has been very successful in the past, is now no longer possible.

There are many suggestions in the Catholic papers and magazines on how to  deal  with the growth of the parishes and the lack of maturity among many of the Christians, which has worked against encouraging more community life. Jesus, when he selected his disciples, did not see them as fully formed but saw what they could become with the graces given and accepted. Koinonia, as experienced in community, can help a great deal in preparing the proper environment to enhance Christian growth, opening them even more to the graces God continues to bestow on us.

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