I remember Family Reunions – celebrations of oneness. Some of these reunions were not necessarily labeled as such – but they were indeed re-unions. They were held for weddings and funerals, graduations, first communions and confirmations, anniversaries and Christmas celebrations. Once in awhile, we had an official Family reunions – held sometime during the summer months, planned well ahead so that everyone could come from far and near. There was and is a type of informal structure that was normal.
The first obvious piece of this liturgy was and remains the gathering. In these gatherings, we greeted one another with a warm embrace or handshake, calling each by name. The adults brought in a wonderful variety of food and drink and set the tables while catching up. Meanwhile the kids started running, screaming and laughing, and playing games. There were at times, a baseball diamond nearby, swings and a horseshoe pit or some other activities for the youngsters and young adults of all ages. As families continued to arrive and to unload people and games, the story-telling began.
Story telling was based on memories – of those who had gone before – and who we remembered as active participants in many ways. These stories spoke to us of those who fed and nourished our bodies and souls – who gave us life. We remembered their dreams, their faith, their hopes and their very humanity. We remembered their strengths and their weaknesses with both tears and laughter. While we shared common roots, we also represented great diversity. We remembered those wounded spiritually and psychologically; the strong and the weak; the proud and the meek.
We also spoke of our own journey of life since we last came together. Perhaps we were celebrating a wedding, a funeral, or an anniversary that drew us to the present moment. Mainly, we celebrated life. All the while, we shared a drink of what might be appropriate to our age, and snacked on junk-food. Stories continued to remind us of our roots; our common heritage. In the meantime, the youngsters were running and laughing, playing all kinds of games and sharing ties that bound them together.
Eventually, it was time to get serious about the food that had been prepared with loving hands. The smells and the sights of the tables filled with carefully prepared meats, vegetables and deserts. The anticipation of digging in triggered new memories and a sense of anticipation. Before we were allowed to dig in, we paused to give thanks. We paused once again to remember those who had gone before us and those who were not able to be with us at this moment. Finally, it was time to dig in and enjoy a repast of gourmet food and drink. All the while, the stories and jokes continued to be shared. Laughter and tears often combined.
Eventually, all good things come to an end. It was time to begin picking up the left-overs and the garbage and preparing for the journey home. Good-Byes were shared, final stories and hugs abounded. The kids by this time were worn out, as were most of the adults. Long Good-Byes were the norm, but finally the cars began to move out for the journey back home.
We came together, greeted one another, in all of our diversity of memories and people; we shared stories that reminded us of our past, we gave thanks and we shared a common meal, prepared with love and care. We came to the end of our celebration and journeyed home, refreshed and nourished in body and soul. We gained the strength to encounter life and all that life would bring. The ties of love bound us together and reminded us that none of us were ever alone. We became the food that we ate and found strength and hope. We found the sacred in life; in the ongoing creation that we were actively participating in. We were thus able to feed others that we met along the way; those most in need. The memories of these grand occasions are ultimately memories of love; where we could celebrate unity within diversity. These moments enable us to see our world as full of the possibility of life renewing itself. We are called to listen, share and to celebrate life in all of it’s forms and as we are fed and healed, become that same food and healing for others.
In all of our individual and personal imperfections and limitations; because of our diversity, we are stronger and able to make a difference. Alone, we are weak; together, we become strong. Our diverse talents, strengths, weaknesses and limitations enable us to receive life and to give life.
THE MASS IS ENDED; GO IN PEACE!