Friday, July 30, 2021

We Need Community, Now and Always

As the end of July 2021 approaches, we all still find ourselves engaged in complicated situations that no one anticipated when this decade began a year and a half ago. The COVID-19 Pandemic is still a concern, with the work of vaccinations continuing and questions arising regarding the dangers posed by new variants of the virus. At the present moment, ordinary daily interactions among people (in my country, at least) have opened up, and we all hope that the frightening experience of "lockdown" is behind us. The worst months of last year were a reminder to us of how difficult it is to live under isolating conditions (even as many people developed creative ways of sustaining some level of "interpersonal connection" via livestream media). Perhaps we have learned not to take one another so much for granted. While it remains to be seen how much we will remember from the hard lessons of these times, the fact remains that relationships and community are fundamental to being human — to living fully as human persons. Moreover, community and its organic expressions are fundamental to the vitality of society.

We need community. We need persons and families connected to one another by the common experience of life, the common struggle for life's needs and celebration of its joys. In community, human persons journey together through this world toward our transcendent destiny, helping one another to be faithful to the ultimate meaning and purpose of our lives and of all things. It should also be obvious that without community, we cannot hope to find adequate solutions to any of the practical social troubles we face today.

But how do we even begin to "build up" networks of trustworthy interpersonal relationships? Community, by its very nature, cannot be imposed by an ideological scheme. Rather, we build a vital community life from the ground up, person-to-person, and we can begin now concretely by living in solidarity with those who have been entrusted to us.

At the same time, we must remain open to growing by encountering new people with realism, generosity, and hospitality (being ready to reach out especially to those in need). We must never forget that the person we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a unique "someone," called and blessed and loved by God with an awesome and immense love.

Therefore, we must try to help one another as best we can and with the resources we have. We must love one another in the recognition that we are all sinners, we are all broken — and then listen to one another, help one another to recognize the truth about reality, and especially be ready to "suffer-with" one another. Since we are all selfish and make mistakes, we must above all forgive one another and bear with one another just as God forgives us and approaches us with such tenderness and patience.

Relying on His mercy, we must take up each day with the desire to grow in a sense of communal living — to grow in love — out of a humble awareness of our fragility and our inadequate ways of expressing mutual friendship. Let us desire to draw closer to, and to understand with greater compassion, the persons He has given to us.