Friday, June 8, 2018

The Power of Community

Dear Friends,

The spring season of the programs at our Motherhouse called Fresh Wind in Our Sails concluded recently with a program about opioid abuse. Among the speakers were two young adults who are thankfully in recovery. Each of them included in their personal reflections the fact that as they sank deeper into narcotic use, they also experienced isolation from others: family, spouses, friends and colleagues. Only in recovery did they begin to recognize their need for community where they would be accepted as vulnerable, fragile people who needed others to accompany them in their growth. In saying what they did, these young people, suffering from a potentially disastrous illness, gave witness to the power of community – a thought we bypass or easily forget in our daily lives. It’s easy to see why. In our culture, independence and self-sufficiency are regarded as paramount to a successful life. Interdependence and belonging have little or no place.

We don’t need to live in each other’s pockets, but we do need the support of others to grow. We also need to give support to others to strengthen them and to build a future.

When we think more generally about the vulnerable whose lives have faltered or which have fallen apart, we come to realize that the value, presence and role of community has changed or disappeared in them. The vulnerable may think that no one needs them or wants them. What they don’t know is that there are communities who both want them and need them. What they also need is an invitation in the Spirit of Jesus to “come and see.”

Jesus did not save us from destruction one by one. His whole mission was to build a community that would welcome people and thereby shelter them, heal them, enrich their confidence in their call to be one with God, and send them forth to do the same for others. For Him, the ultimate community was the Reign of God or the Kingdom of God. Jesus even showed us how to do the work of building community. The secret is in the Beatitudes and in Matthew 25 “Whatever you do…”

Community demands certain things of us: listening, negotiation, openness, staying power, conviction that the Spirit speaks through each of us, goodwill, good humor and a sincere desire to be one in the Spirit of Jesus, even though we might not be sure what that means. Be with. Spend time with. Accept what the other offers by way of insight or challenge. Give in kindness.

Summertime offers a unique set of opportunities to be with apparent strangers whose lives need to be gentled and received into our communities even as ours do. Summer is also a season for increased consciousness that all of what we say of community is true. Summer holds the potential for community building, if we only take our eyes off of ourselves and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He will show the way to welcome or go to others. Jesus understands the power of community as no one else does.

~Sister Joan Sobala