God Made Us to Live in Community

I finally turned off my phone at 4 AM. I was awake, as usual, with our infant son, Auggie, and the only way I knew to pass the time in the dark was to scroll the news, however dreadful and deafening it was to my heart and soul—and to the world. 

Auggie is labeled a “COVID baby,” because he was born the day before the world shut down for two weeks. It was easy for me to curl up with him in my lap, holding myself with my kids in the house for an indefinite amount of time. Surely, within these four walls, life would be safe, secure, certain? 

Those of us who are introverts adjusted quickly to the stay-at-home mandates. Fear tells us to build a cocoon around ourselves, to shut everyone out, because it is the only way we can be sure we will not encounter real or perceived threats. Many told me that to stay at home wasn’t born from fear, but cautiousness. 

But I just kept thinking that God created us for community.

Theologically, God is a family. The Trinity as Three-Persons-In-One operates as a cohesive unit of Divine Persons. This is an example of interdependence for us, both with each other, but mostly with God. The fact that God the Father breathed His Word into life, into the Person of Jesus, and their relationship bore the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Church (and all of us) bespeaks the power of community.

We are not made to live alone. Even in the book of Genesis, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” He created a companion—Eve—to demonstrate the power and necessity of a unitive relationship that is modeled after our search for total union with God.

God created us to hold each other, to place one hand in another’s, to rest on another person’s shoulder, to laugh in a room filled with other people, to read facial expressions and interpret tonal inflection, to rejoice and celebrate and weep. Together. Not alone.

“On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others.”

—CCC 1936

God as a Trinitarian Family reflects to us the separation of our hearts because of sin, but also the simultaneous longing for wholeness and connection. This is why God designed our hearts to long for Him, to reach to Heaven every day through prayer, but also to then go into our neighborhoods and homes and workplaces to demonstrate God operating through and in us. It’s an extension—and a witness—of our faith in God when we reach out to those who are hurting.

“The neighbor is not a ‘unit’ in the human collective; he is ‘someone’ who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect.”

—CCC 2212

It is tempting to view human beings as automatons operating collectively. I read often about “collective” experiences related to the pandemic, which are partially true, but one of the problems with focusing on commonalities is that we begin to overlook the individual fingerprints of every person. 

If we look to the Visitation, we learn that Mary and St. Elizabeth shared their joy. They did not keep to themselves the promise God had given to them individually. This is an example of how our unique experiences (Mary’s visit from St. Gabriel and her yes to becoming the Mother of God; St. Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy in her old age) can come together in a shared celebration.

“In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person: ‘Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.’”

—CCC 1905

Isolation breeds loneliness. The enemy lurks in our minds when we are lonely. Loneliness subsequently can lead to despondency and even despair. Retreating into our homes is akin to retreating into ourselves, where we do not have to be challenged to reach out to people we don’t know or understand or even agree with. The life of a Christian requires that we follow Jesus’ footsteps and seek out those who are marginalized and rejected and alone. 

We cannot grow in virtue when we are comfortable. Security never bore a saint.

image: Procession Señor de los Milagros in front of Nazarenas church on November 01 2018 (Lima), photo by Christian Vinces / Shutterstock

By

Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the moving through grief, the value of redemptive suffering, and how to wait for God’s timing fruitfully. Her books include Navigating Deep Waters, From Grief to Grace , A Sea Without A Shore For Those Who Grieve, and Waiting with Purpose. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic periodicals. Jeannie, her husband, and their three daughters (plus one baby boy) live in northern Indiana. For more information, please visit her website jeannieewing.com.  Follow Jeannie on social media:  Facebook | LinkedIn |Instagram

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