That a Christian is one who both follows Christ and imitates Him seems pretty straightforward. Jesus Himself told us:
“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)
Today in American English we often hear the “you” of these commandments in the singular. We are so attuned to individualism that we assume this is a command for each off us to keep individually, and yet the command is spoken in the plural and means that all of us together are to love one another. Christ is an example to each of us personally, but then calls us to act communally as brothers and sisters. We as parish are to serve all. Christ gives an example to each of us, and together, communally, collectively, as a body, as a parish we are to fulfill the commandment together.
In this same discourse but a minute later Christ goes on to say:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Again he addresses himself to each of us personally but calls us to love together, collectively and communally. We are to be recognized as disciples not just an individual disciple. We are recognized as disciples in community. The parish is essential for our identity and witness. In the parish community we can and are to fulfill the commandment that we together do what Christ commanded us to do. This is very much what the early church understood about being Christian and discipleship: one Christian, or a Christian alone, is no Christian. Only in community can we love as Christ commanded us to do. Of course we each have to contribute to this communal behavior, but it is always each of us have to work together to love as Christ exemplified and commanded us to do.
The plural “you” – we, us – is also in St. Paul’s exhortation:
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom. 15:7)
Christ welcomes us and receives us. It is as one of us that we live our Christian life.
“Let us commend our selves, and one another and all our life to Christ our God.”