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To God-whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine- to God be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (INT)
For a long time I searched for the ideal community. When I was eighteen, I entered the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I had stars in my eyes and big dreams to live. I just knew everyone would get along. I soon discovered, however, with the help of an astute postulant director, that my version of the "perfect community of nuns" did not exist. It was, alas, a product of Hollywood's imaginative portrayal of convent life in Come to the Stable or TV's The Flying Nun series.
Fifteen years later, I again tried to live my dream of community, this time by putting my energies into developing small communities of faith based on the early church's experience. These groups were made up of people with similar visions of "church," who came together to share faith and to minister to people who felt excluded from the institutional church. But once again, I was disappointed. There were arguments, disagreements and hassles over minor issues. What was the problem, I asked myself? What ingredient was missing? Where did we go wrong?
Finally I realized something that I already knew but had forgotten. No one-including me-is perfect; all of us are human. When we form community or celebrate "church," we will never have it all together. Yet Jesus is right there in the midst of our messiness-liberating, healing and loving us.
I have had glimpses of genuine community that touched me deeply. I was recently at a meeting where we gathered to heal the hurts that members experienced after a number of disagreements had surfaced. We listened, acknowledged each other's pain, and reached out in forgiveness and love to one another. One woman shared her hurt at not being listened to at a previous meeting; a man told how it felt to be put down. People responded by asking for forgiveness for these and other failures. It was a powerful experience. There were not too many dry eyes in the room. It was as if Christ was saying through each of us: "I love you!" We are all wounded healers. Sometimes that's our greatest gift.
This is what community is all about. Christ is with us as we come together to worship God, share our gifts and wounds, and serve others. We don't have to have all the answers. We don't need to be perfect. We don't have to be "right." We just need to ask and receive forgiveness and to be present in love to one another. Even in our failures, we can be Christ to one another. Beneath and beyond all that divides us there is a grace, deeper still, that makes us one. Ultimately, our diversity, our differences, our faults and our failures are gifts through which we can experience God's mysterious power at work in our lives and in our communities. Where two or three are gathered in Christ's name for whatever reason, God helps us to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. That is the good news of Christian community-the answer to the dream of community I sought long ago.
Spend a few minutes day-dreaming about the kind of relationships you want to have with other people, the kind of community you want to create. Be aware of any images or feelings that come to mind. Write them down and offer them to God. Make this your prayer today:
Dreamer of the Ages, be with me on my journey inward. Give me the openness to encounter your presence in my dreams of true love, warm friendship and close community.
Embrace the God within you today. Be aware of the wonderful possibilities within yourself. Acknowledge your faults and limitations. Be aware that your wounds are also gifts of grace to share with others. See yourself today acting as a gifted person . . . and as a wounded healer.
Make this your prayer today:
Creator God, help me today to be the best person I can be. May I be aware that I can draw on your power in me that does immea surably more than I ask or imagine. May your glory shine through me in everything I do and say.
Make this your prayer today:
Heart of Love, may I speak healing words to my family, especially (name of person). May I speak forgiving words to (name of person). May I affirm your goodness in (name of person). May I know the power of community as I join with (name of person). May I let go of past resentments and open myself to change, especially in (name painful situations).
Quiet your mind and body by taking several deep breaths. Be still in the presence ofJesus. Reflect on times in your life when you have experienced loving community. Give thanks for these experiences. Be aware of experiences you now have of community. Ask God to
do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine in your community.
Have a prayerful conversation with Jesus about your dreams of loving community. Describe who is in the community. What are the community's hopes and dreams? What are your hopes and dreams? Ask Jesus to guide you with deep wisdom and insight about how you can live a holy and whole life as a member of a loving community. See yourself doing something today to make your dream a reality.
Make this your prayer today:
Divine Companion, we are called to be friends. Remove the fears that cause divisions. Wipe away the tears that break hearts. Deliver us from hurtful words and cruel actions that alienate and harm. Reconcile us as sisters and brothers with one another and with creation. Dance with us the cosmic dance of trinitarian unity. Draw us as one family into your giant circle of love, harmony, justice and peace, where we will sing your praises forever.