I recently had reason to ask others for prayer, and it was a surprisingly tough decision. People have asked me to pray for their health, well being, better employment, employment for their kids, even sick pets, and all done without question. Asking others for prayer? Not so much, and I realized I was keeping my greatest prayer needs personal and private. I had to ask myself; am I really in “communion” if I keep my prayer needs personal and private?
Sometimes the answer to a question is more questions. I found myself asking if this wasn’t some false sense of pride; me not wanting others to know “my” business or to see “my” flaws. Doesn’t that change my prayer from a communal act; to one that is just between “me and my God?”
I began to reflect on the meaning of communion. We come to Mass, receive Holy Communion, and the Eucharist unifies us. Is that it? Does joining in our Eucharistic celebration mean we have entered into “communion”? The answer is yes and no. Our Eucharistic celebration unites us to Christ along with everyone else, but we are also the members of Christ’s body on earth today. We do not stand alone away from Mass.
The word communion comes from the Latin word which is the root word for communion as well as several other English words. One of these is community. Community is defined as a unified body of individuals. Some will say, “wait a minute, you mean we come together as a unified body? But, I’ll never be in unity with him.” Sure you will. They are as much a part of the community as you are. If you deny him standing in the community, you may deny yourself a place in the community. Living in communion doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It does mean we share a foundational principal our lives are built and centered on. This foundation unites us in our faith and the fundamental truth found in Christ. Our Mass calls us into a deeper communion as a community.
Let’s consider another word rooted in the Latin communio. We must communicate to be in communion with one another. Words express and give voice to our thoughts and ideas when we communicate. Communicate also means to participate. Communication is a two-way street where two or more express thoughts and ideas. We communicate with individuals, and with others. All of it is with, and through Christ as the head. We must communicate with the other members of the body to be in communion.
A two-way street isn’t a very good analogy. It is more like a roundabout. Each of us are traveling different paths and roads, all leading to the roundabout with Christ at the center. We communicate our needs, accept the burden and needs of others and pray for each other. This draws us closer to Christ at the center, and as we draw closer, we enter ever deeper into communion.
Being in communion with one another in prayer requires our active participation. When we keep our fears, our worries, and our suffering to ourselves (just me and my God), the whole body is affected. We separate ourselves and are no longer united. It’s a little like taking the “Our” out of the “Our Father.”
Christ commands us to love one another as He has loved us, and St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. Yes, we are to pray privately, but we are also to communicate our prayer needs, and to listen and pray for the needs of others. We do this as a community and in communion with our brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 4:15-16 describes our communion as: “Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through Him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.”
In a very real sense, not asking for prayer may deny our brothers and sisters, the Body of Christ, an opportunity to build itself up in God’s communal love.
Deacon Wickern assists the pastor at St. Ann parish in Warsaw and the mission of Ss. Peter and Paul in Cole Camp.