BY BILL REAGAN
This past Thursday the Harlingen community gathered for the Seventh Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. gave the invocation. The Senator noted how faith transcends politics. Mr. Lucio is a Democrat. Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, the keynote speaker, is a Republican. Mr. Lucio attends Mass at the same Austin Roman Catholic Church where Mrs. Abbott worships. They take Holy Communion together.
First Lady Abbott gave a message of hope and inclusion. She said, “The church really is my home, and you the people in it are my family.”
There is a lot of good theology in that statement. I meet homeless people every day. Homelessness is no fun, that’s for sure. There is a deeper, more desperate kind of homelessness. Spiritual homelessness. Separation from God. The loneliness of sin. The burden of guilt.
There’s an old familiar hymn, “I’m but a stranger here. Heaven is my home.” A nice sentiment, but home is not some far away, ill defined place “up there” that maybe we’ll get to visit some day, if we’re very good.
It has been said that home is the place you go to when you have nowhere else to go and the place where they have to take you in, whether they want to or not. A bit cynical, but in essence the statement is true. Take out the cynicism and you have the perfect mission statement of the Church. The Church is family. Not a denomination. Not a doctrinal statement. Not a social club. Not a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The Church is home.
The Church is the place Democrats and Republicans kneel together to receive the same Christ. It is where we sinners confess our sins and receive forgiveness, and worship as the one family that God meant for us to be. The Church is the place to go when you have nowhere else to go. The Church does not have to take you in. The Church gets to take you in. Because you are family.
That’s the way the Church is supposed to be.
Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.