Community: In union with. When we gather together as one body, we are recognizing that we are connected. We as infants are born into relationships; first with the mother who gives and nurtures life; then with the extended family, friends, and so many others as we begin our journey throughout life. We begin to accept relationships with parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, in constantly expanding circles. We are even connected with all of the generations that have gone before us, and those that will come after us. We find ourselves to be in relationships with a wide variety of animal and plant life; with our environment and our world and our universe. It is an amazing idea to realize that we are a product of the very earth that we walk on; that nourishes us.
As we gather in community, we come to share a meal and to tell and to listen to stories. I remember in my own lifetime, family reunions, when the Aunts and Uncles, the Great-Aunts and Great-uncles, and all of the cousins would gather at one appropriate space or another – where there was room for the kids to run and engage in games, while the adults gathered in a variety of age groups and told stories; reminding each other of days past, remarking on the growth of the kids, reflecting on those who had died and all of the other family changes that had taken place since the last gathering.
In the meantime, many of the women would be busy telling stories and preparing the meal was always delicious while the men were telling stories while playing horseshoes or talking about the sports teams or their jobs. All in all, people were having a great time, re-connecting, reminiscing, and remembering. Finally, the meal was served, and all gathered around the great diversity of food, prepared with care and anticipation. When the food was served, the stories and conversations continued, with much laughter and once in awhile, tears.
And as all good things do, it was time to move on; to return home. As each individual family began to prepare for their journey home, more and more stories were shared and hopes and dreams were renewed. At times, the preparing to move seemed to take forever, with just one more story or thought. But finally, everyone was moving back to their special place – where they lived and worked. But they were renewed. The food was remembered as the very best, but not because of the quality of the cooking. It was more because of the sharing – of the coming together and feeding one another’s spirit as well as the body. All left fed and healed in body, mind and spirit. They were ready to head back into the thick of things and to move on once again.
In many ways, our family is a reflection of the world that we live. We are not clones of one another. We do not always share the same political opinions; we are a racially diverse family – African American, Asian, European backgrounds, and we are a religiously diverse community; Catholic, Methodist, Jewish, Nones and Agnostics, and many versions of belief. We are blind, deaf, limited in our understanding and humanity. We are at times curious, bored, frustrated, angry, happy and filled with joy and possibility. Intellectually, we are all over the book; Autism, Doctors, Lawyers, Down syndrome, workers, military, Nurses, retired and beginners. We share the grand diversity of human sexuality and personalities. We have experienced death and birth and all the pain, challenges and struggles that life brings. . We reflect the grand diversity of humanity and God’s Creation that is coming to be. And we are part of a much larger world that is even more diverse and beautiful and filled with wonder. We look back and recognize our heritage and we look forward and wonder and celebrate the generations yet to come.
This is a very real way is the church – or the gathering of the people of God. Sacred and holy, but imperfect – and struggling to become. We struggle to let go of the past and to be open to life that is becoming. When we gather at the Mass, we first of all, recognize each other in our human limitations and imperfections. We understand that we are all connected – we share in the ongoing creation. We listen to the stories of past generations – stories of faith, wonder, healing, and love. We then gather to share a meal of unity; of oneness and unity. In all of our diversity, we are still one creation, filled with the same spirit. In sharing these moments, we become healed and filled with new life and energy and are able to move on, bringing that same healing and energy with us to touch a broken and wounded world, starving and thirsting for life; letting go of our fears and recognizing that Spirit of the living God within us, leading us onward.
We become what we receive. We receive what we are open to receiving; recognizing our common humanity. We become the food for others, and are called to celebrate that reality. As others feed us with the life that is within them, we are called to become that same food for others, gratefully recognizing what we have received – not through anything that we have done, but through the action of a healing and loving God that brings life into the world in all of it’s beauty and wonder. We are part of that. We become part of the greatest story ever told – the story of the Word becoming human and one with us on our journey. Reminding us that the journey of creation is not easy or smooth – and we share in the responsibility of caring for our universe, our world, and all of life. Life is dynamic and always changing; always growing and moving. Life is a gift and we always have the grand question in front of us: What do we do with this gift? How do we open it and share it? Do we even recognize it for what it is?
Communion – In common with. We live within one creation of life that is ongoing and we need the gifts that each person brings to the table. We need to invite in the strangers, those seen to be of no account, those who are different and recognize like the universe, all is connected and that love is the one element that holds it together. We are connected to the universe in time and in space – every atom, every molecule – throughout space is connected and we are part of our earth; we are part of the stars.