Breaking Borders

April 02, 2014

Several U.S. Catholic bishops gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday and celebrated communion. Boston Globe reporter John L. Allen Jr. tweeted powerful photos of the ceremony. For instance, one showed the bishops with the communion table and the border wall as the backdrop, and another one showed the bishops passing communion bread through the wall to those gathered on the Mexican side. For more about what was done and said during the event, check out reports in the Boston Globe (here) and America magazine (here).

Such a holy celebration of communion at the border transforms the space into holy ground and demonstrates a faith that transcends borders. With the border wall replacing a cathedral as the scene for communion, the bishops powerfully signaled their engaged faith with inherent political implications. Additionally, by serving communion through the wall to those on Mexican side (perhaps in violation of U.S. law), the bishops showed that kingdom citizenship transcends national boundaries. As they broke bread to remember the broken body of Christ on the cross, they noted how the dividing wall literally breaks the family/body of Christ. Celebrating communion - anywhere - is not a purely spiritual act. Such an act inherently brings political implications as believers pledge their first allegiance to the kingdom and unite themselves with those of the faith across space and time (I deal more thoroughly with these ideas in an upcoming book that I recently turned in to my editor). This is why philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau pointed to communion to warn how a church that transcends state borders is a threat to state sovereignty. While we do not always recognize these key religious-political assumptions in the holy act, a service like the one Catholic bishops performed on the Mexico-U.S. border yesterday helps highlight the implications of celebrating communion. May we likewise remain mindful of the radical messages of communion.