Our theme for the junior retreat has been Community. While it is a relatively short retreat I was somewhat amazed at how quickly the junior retreatants are able to articulate the theme. Certainly they understand what we have been trying to instill on a day-to-day basis in school. And while they are on retreat, they articulate our philosophy very well.
Yesterday they shared during their discussions and the homily some of these one-liners :
There are two important tables for us on retreat. The Eucharistic and dining table. Both are important.
Our lives are about relationships.
We have come as strangers and now we are friends.
Communication is never easy, but it is very important.
Community is not an easy thing to create.
It is easier to be a part of a group, than to stand alone.
We prayed, cooked, ate and had a long diner celebration in a night filled with laughing and stories. They talked about their relationships, their friends and their families.
Whatever the configuration of families or community, it is central to our lives. In today’s brief, two-line gospel we listen as a woman calls to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus’ responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
What struck me about the Gospel today is that Jesus is surprising us with a change of focus. He is not discounting his own mother and their close relationship, but he is telling us that our own relationship with him can be blessed to the degree we let it be a relationship of hearing and keeping his word. Our fidelity to him blesses us with a family relationship with him.
By extension, that also means that we are invited to be family with those beyond our immediate family relationships. We include others because we have been included by Jesus.
As we saw in Pope Francis’ recent trip to the US, we find Jesus in the faces and lives of those in our world. Echoing Jesus, Francis asks us to open our hearts to the hungry, the poor and the marginalized. The outcasts we meet might be hidden most obviously within our own families:
Both inside and outside our families, we are called to reach out to others who need us as a way to really unite to Jesus and his mission on earth. What does Jesus want from us? A deeply personal relationship. Jesus isn’t looking for us to read more about him or discuss the theology of his ministry. Jesus longs for a close and personal family relationship with us as we speak to him about our lives and lean on him for support in times of need. Blessed by his love, we hear the call from this love to keep his word by loving as he has loved us.
Our personal prayer and friendship with Jesus will bring us the happiness that is promised in the vision from the first reading from Joel: we are no longer strangers, the mountains shall drip new wine, the hills flow with milk and the channels of Judah fill with water. “Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God.”
Today’s invitation from Jesus is to leave that family table and reach out to those who need us as we join with Jesus in his mission. Pope Francis has called us to be families of inclusion, dialog and service for all.