reminded of community

I'm in Evanston now, with Reba Place Fellowship, staying for a couple weeks at the house I used to live in before moving to Champaign. I was invited to help Bob (the guy with muscular dystrophy who I used to care for) learn the internet--though I imagine that it was also an excuse to invite me for some much needed time away. It's nice being back among the community here.

They're really big on community here. And yesterday, while helping take Bob to the dentist downtown, the topic came up again. I was talking to Julius about my plans for the summer and he asked about the community at the retreat place. It's just the one older couple right now (though they are eager for more to come, and are even expanding their living quarters for more volunteers). That's something I've also wondered about, whether we will find enough community life there, and how we could improve it if we don't.

But it also got me thinking about community in relation to my recent thoughts on Jesus, the poor, and the blessed life. Part of the blessed life, certainly, is the experience of community, of family. To be surrounded by those who love us and who we love, who are truly one with us. Jesus spoke much of this, and redefined what it meant to be family: "Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Mk 3.35) This family can be seen among those who follow Jesus, those who are glad to be gathered under Jesus' care, the anawim.

It's hard to experience this community, however, if we try to include everyone in it (though everyone is invited). All the poor do not belong to this family. Jesus said "whoever does the will of God" is part of the family of God, and that doesn't include everyone. In this respect, I find some of the Catholic Worker teachings to be problematic. Assuming that everyone who shows up at the door is Christ, for example. Or, in a recent paper we received from another CW house, they claimed that every person is part of the "mystical body of Christ." I can see how these ideas are meant to encourage us to treat one another better, but I don't think they are based in truth. Trying to include everyone, they dissolve the true identity of Jesus' family. And we end up with an unconnected crowd of people, an imaginary community (one that doesn't feel much like family) instead of a real one.

Jesus managed to gather those who "do the will of God" into his community. So again the question arises: how did he do it? Some religious groups have tried to do this through doctrinal or authoritarian means, through official membership procedures and excommunications. But Jesus didn't seem to need these power-wielding methods. So how did he gather the anawim around him?