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Although Jesus' words, recorded by Matthew, are very important for the life of the Christian communities, they rarely draw the attention of commentators and preachers. This is Jesus' promise: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Jesus isn't thinking about massive celebrations like those in St. Peter's Square in Rome. Even though there are only two or three, there he is in their midst. It's not necessary for the hierarchy to be present; those who are gathered don't need to be many.
What's important is that "they are gathered," not dispersed or in confrontation -- that they aren't disparaging one another. The crucial thing is that they are gathering "in his name" -- that they are listening to his call, that they are identified with his plan for the kingdom of God. That Jesus is the center of their little group.
This real and living presence of Jesus is what must animate, guide and sustain the small communities of his followers. Jesus is the one who must inspire their prayers, their celebrations, projects and activities. That presence is the "secret" of every lively Christian community.
We Christians can't gather in our groups and communities today any which way -- out of habit, out of inertia, or to fulfill some religious obligation. We may be many or, perhaps, few. But what's important is that we gather in his name, drawn by him and his plan to make a more humane world.
We must reawaken awareness that we are Jesus' communities. We gather to hear his Gospel, to keep his memory alive, to be infected by his Spirit, to receive his joy and his peace within us, to proclaim his Good News.
The future of the Christian faith will depend in large part on what we Christians do in our specific communities in the coming decades. What Pope Francis can do in the Vatican isn't enough. Nor can we put our hope in the handful of priests who might be ordained in the coming years. Our only hope is Jesus Christ.
We are the ones who are to center our Christian communities on Jesus as the only force capable of regenerating our routine and worn out faith. The only one able to attract the men and women of today. The only one capable of engendering new faith in these times of unbelief. The renewal of the central bodies of the Church is urgent. The reform decrees, necessary. But nothing is as crucial as coming back radically to Jesus.