The Sheltering Embrace of Community
Updated: Jul 2, 2018
Marisa Guerin, PhD – July 1, 2018
My life’s journey has lately been rather intense.
Losing, mourning and celebrating the life of a long-time friend was like walking through the darkening valley after sundown, when you draw together with your traveling companions for comfort and remembrance. Stories, tears, laughter, a shared meal, a hole in the heart.
The very next days found me celebrating the marriage of young friends. It was like the road suddenly opened out to the sunlit meadow atop the mountain, in the company of joyful grown-ups and delighted kids, music, dancing and feasting.
Both events were powerful experiences of the human reality – we do not, cannot, live alone; we live in community.
That community might not be nearby all the time. Doesn’t matter. Hundreds of people came or called to remember Fr. Jack Nevins from all over the nation, and world really. We were from all kinds of “circles”, some of them going back 20, 50, 70 years. When your life is touched and changed by someone who cares, you remember, and you give thanks.
The same was true of the wedding. Dear friends and far-flung family members came from long distances to share their support, witness, and happiness. I was honored to have been asked by the marrying couple if I would preside over their self-uniting wedding service. Here are some of the reflections that I offered during the ceremony, especially calling out the value these two persons placed on their loved community:
“It matters a lot that we are gathered here together for this special moment. Nobody really makes it through a lifetime without the support of their families and friends --- that sturdy, sheltering community that bears witness to our life journeys, welcomes babies, helps to care for children, rejoices in the accomplishments of young people, joins with our sorrows, and walks with us into maturity and elderhood.
“First Corinthians reminds of the miracle of human unity and human diversity, as we were made by our Creator. Everyone is part of the body, everyone matters, everyone is gifted; and at the same time, no one is just like everyone else. We are all, each of us, unique beings, unrepeatable miracles who matter a great deal to those who love us.
“And we who are gathered here have reason to be grateful, too. When two people marry, a new source of energy and strength for human flourishing is created in the world! It flows beyond their own happiness, the light of love in their eyes, their excitement and joy. All true love is creative and generative, springing from that which is of God, deep in our hearts. That love flows out through the home and family that is nurtured, through generosity and presence to neighbors, through the work of hands and minds to build our emerging world.
“To make a marriage promise is an act of hope, an act of faith, an act of love.”
We live and we die within the embrace of family, friends, and neighbors – the community that loves us and that we love. If God is Love, which I believe, then I catch a glimpse of the face of the Holy One in that community. A week like this past one drives that truth home with incredible power.