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Last Word: A new wilderness

by Monsignor Gaspar Ancona
Image: Foggy, dense primeval forestIn the waning days of summer, I picked up a book that I've read in the past and began perusing it again. It's the history of Michigan by a native of our state, Bruce Catton. He became known and acclaimed for his writing on the Civil War. The Michigan book was his contribution to the bicentennial observances that swept the country in 1976. It is delightful reading and quite informative.
Catton freely shares his awe over the primitive qualities of our state when its natural resources were so bountiful: the fresh waters, of course; the minerals, like copper and iron; and the dense, primeval forests. People who came from Canada and Europe thought of these resources as inexhaustible. Such thinking, he laments, easily led to exploitation. But at the same time, Catton observes with admiration how settlers learned “the art of associating together” in order to benefit the most from this wonderland of riches. If rugged individualism is part of the national character, so too, it seems, almost by necessity, is community spirit.
On a spiritual level, the followers of Jesus celebrate the reality of being called into communion with Christ and one another. If anything should be characteristic of Christians, it should be a kind of family spirit. To belong to Christ is to belong in some way to each other. Therefore, we are more than members of an organization, even a worldwide one. Our oneness with Christ draws us into a unity with fellow believers that spans space and time. By his power and in his Spirit we become one with each other, sharing his redeeming love.
We might call this work of Christ the internal life which his Spirit has breathed into us. How we live that reality and bring its power into our friendships, our work and our public life is a daily challenge. We can call it, as historian Catton observed about the settlers of our state, the new art of associating together in Christ. It calls for practice, plenty of trial and error and a spirit of adventure and forgiveness. It may feel as if we are in new territory, like a dense and primeval forest. But with Christ, the riches really are inexhaustible.  
Photo: Monsignor Gaspar AnconaMonsignor Ancona is a retired priest of the diocese. He was ordained on June 1, 1963. He is an accomplished pastor, teacher, author, spiritual director and preacher.