It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit, and so, he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members (LG 13).
We profess in the Creed that, as a people of faith, we believe in “the communion of saints.” But what does that mean?
Some people imagine that this tenet of our faith is a reference to those canonized models of Christian living, also known as “Saints” (with a capital “S”). However, the fuller meaning of the term is much more capacious than folks typically consider. The term saint is something that goes back to at least St. Paul and his letters to early Christian communities. The saints to which he was referring were the baptized faithful, all those who are incorporated into the Body of Christ, which is the church.
In other words, we are all saints.
The profession of belief in the “communion of saints” is the conviction that all the baptized are united to one another in a profound and indelible manner, joined by the Holy Spirit into one Body of Christ.
This passage above from the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) reiterates this core aspect of our faith and presents an implication of this dimension of our tradition that is especially timely in a world divided by hatred, discrimination, division, and fear.
Regardless of what artificial and human-made walls we erect between peoples, the connection we share with one another in baptism transcends those barriers. The example given in Lumen Gentium is one of a geographic source—the distance between Rome and India—and yet, those residing in each land are nevertheless connected together as members of a new family in Christ.
Do we think about what that means for how we perceive one another? Do we think about those sisters and brothers of ours “scattered throughout the world” or do we concern ourselves with only those immediately in our midst, our family and friends?
I would argue that this extends even further beyond those who are baptized to include the whole human family. That the refugee of another religious tradition, the victim of violence who espouses no religious belief at all—these folks are united to us as well by virtue of our shared humanity. Certainly this is something God calls us to recognize.
In our prayer, in our decisions, in our thinking about the world, may we become increasingly aware of our connection and relationship to others that may not appear immediately before us, but who are nevertheless part of our community—believers and unbelievers alike. May we recognize that the rules of the Kingdom of God do not conform to the “wisdom” of the world that says we should take care of ourselves alone and let others suffer and perish.