One of the most successful movements ever started which has been able to help people get their lives back together from addiction, is the group known as Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. By now there are also many other ‘Twelve Step’ groups, as they are called, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and others. The interesting thing is that the Twelve Step program on which they are based, is basically a summary of the Christian life. The twelve steps involve admitting that you are powerless over your problem, whatever it might be; that your life is unmanageable, that only God (as you understand God) can help you and so you must turn to him; also that you need to atone for the hurt and damage that you may have caused others. But the main reason why these groups have helped so many people is because they are based on the idea that we need the support of like minded people if we are to be able to live any kind of way of life.
Our coming to mass on a Sunday has a very similar thinking behind it. We come together primarily to worship the Lord, but also because we need the support of like minded people who also believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God. This was exactly why the early Christians began to come together in each other’s houses, so that they could share their faith together, listen to the Word of God, receive the Lord Jesus together in the Eucharist and be encouraged by each other’s presence and witness. Our approach to coming to mass on Sunday also makes a big difference. If I tell myself I have to go, we have immediately given ourselves a mental obstacle. If I think of it as an encounter with the living God, who wants to meet me and speak to me, that can make all the difference in the world. What does God want to say to me? In each mass I can be united to Jesus in the most intimate way possible by receiving his Body and Blood.
Today we do the same thing but in a more organised way. But the reason we still come together is not just because it’s Sunday and we have to go to mass, but because we need the support of others who believe as we do. We need to listen to God’s word for guidance and inspiration, so that we can learn how God wants us to live and most importantly to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We are nourished by Jesus himself when we receive him in Holy Communion and we are intimately united with him in the most extraordinary way. The Lord knows much better than we do how much we need this kind of strength and support and that is why he has set it up for us this way. All of this is for our benefit, because we need this kind of support.
In the second reading St. John says that what the Lord asks of us is this: to believe in the name of Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, and to love one another. If we can do that much we are doing a lot.
More and more in our society it becomes obvious that we don’t all believe in the same thing and that is alright, there is room for everyone. In fact it is a good thing. But if we are to survive, we need the support of each other and to know that we are not on our own. We also need to look out for each other, because that is the practical way of living out our faith. It is not easy to live as a Christian, but then it never has been. In the Gospel Jesus says, ‘Cut off from me you can do nothing.’ If we are serious about following this way of life, then we must recognise what it is we need. Just as with someone suffering from an alcohol or drug addiction, if they want to get well, they need to work the Twelve Step program. It is the same for us. If we hope to grow as Christians, we need to stay close to Jesus, to listen to his word, to receive him in the Eucharist and to love one another. Jesus is our source of life in every sense. If we wish to remain alive as Christians, we must be rooted in him. No one else will give us life as He does.
‘I am the vine, you are the branches... Cut off from me you can do nothing.’