He was standing in the hallway by his locker. Just the previous week the administration emphasized at a faculty meeting that students are not allowed in the hallways during lunch time. They were to be either in the lunch room or outside. Here stood “John.” He thought he was safe as he did not expect to see a teacher in the hallway. John, why are you in the hallway? He was in my religious study’s class so I knew him. Rather boisterous exuding a sense of bravado in the classroom, he surprised me with what he said next Oh, please don’t make me go out there. I saw fear in his 17-year-old eyes. I asked him what was going on. His only response was please don’t make me go out there. I paused. I didn’t push the issue nor did I make him go outside. High school years are difficult, peer pressure is suffocating. I understood that.
This situation took place a long time ago. I don’t know what happened to “John” but I hope he found a “community” where he feels a sense of belonging and acceptance. People who accept him and support him and encourage his gifts, a group with whom he does not have to be afraid, a group of people who support him in good days and difficult days.
When I taught religious studies I always encouraged students to pick their friends well. I encouraged them to surround themselves with people who appreciated their gifts and supported them bringing out their best. This is true for adults as well. The best gift in life is having people who appreciate our gifts and encourage us on our path in life. And we do the same for them. Community is a group of friends, family, parish community, religious community, school community, however, we conceive community. What seems essential is that being together brings out the best in one another while working toward the common good.
In the Gospel of Luke (3:15-16, 21-22) from the Christian scriptures a scene unfolds that speaks powerfully of belonging and community. John is baptizing in the River Jordan. People wait in hopeful expectation as Jesus presents himself for baptism. The moments are telling as this scene unfolds. They wanted to see God’s manifestation and wondered if it would be in John or in Jesus. They discovered in those moments that the divine was present in the community. The water symbolized their coming together, their support of one another, their encouragement of one another. Jesus immersed himself in community. In that moment of being in community Jesus was God’s beloved. And so were those with him. These are my beloved sons and daughters. An exhilarating moment of realization!
We too, are God’s beloved. It is all we need. The greatest gift of all. Nothing else really matters.
Our invitation is to embrace community.
Blessings and peace.