In a few days, I will be moving to an apartment building where I will live with about forty Sisters of Notre Dame and a growing number of laypeople. We will form a community that will be a new experience for me. I’ve lived with large and small groups of Sisters, I’ve lived alone, and once for two months I lived with a community of disabled people in Chicago in a home called Shelter of God’s Love. A recent retreat focused me on our deep-rooted need to form communities and how important they are. It all begins with the Trinity, three holy Persons bound together as One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since we are made in God’s image, then we too are naturally drawn to live in communities.
Jesus, our model, lived with others and wasn’t a loner. He could have chosen to appear on earth as a fully formed man. Instead he came as a member of a family, the basic human community. He spent about thirty years eating, talking, and working in this unit. As a native of Nazareth, he belonged to the community of two hundred or so people who lived around him. He made their scythes and plows in his workshop, helped build their houses, and danced at their weddings.
After Jesus left his hometown, he gathered a team of twelve men who accompanied him day in and day out for the next few years. They walked from town to town together, shared meals, laughed and talked, slept in inns or under the stars. Three of these apostles were his best friends, chosen to share special experiences with him. Knowing the value of support, he sent his disciples out two by two to spread his teachings. At the end of his life, he did not die alone but was flanked by two other crucified men.
Jesus spoke of his followers as a tight-knit group, in fact, as his mystical body. We Christians are all united with him and with one another, like branches on a vine. We worship God as an assembly each week. Our parishes are faith communities.
Men and women religious form communities in order to encourage and support one another in carrying out the Lord’s mission. As such, synergy is at work: together they can accomplish more than individually. A string can be easily broken, but when a number of them are together, they are strong. A page can be ripped easily, but tearing several pages at the same time to recycle them requires a great deal of strength I learned. In addition, communities are more fun.
What communities enrich your life? Do you have special friends? Four of us high school “girls” meet periodically for dinner and discussion. Do you know the people in your neighborhood? If not, could you be the catalyst starting a block party? How does your parish support you? How do you support it?
At the end of time, we will all be swept up into that eternal community of the one God.