It was a gathering of the entire family. Brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, immediate and extended members of the family – all were there. It was going to be the reunion of all reunions. Everyone came. No one was missing. Many attempts were made in the past to gather the relatives living throughout the world, but this year everyone was in attendance. The hotel was glad to have the families. This was a big event for them. Generally, because the winter months were so unpredictable and often harsh, the resort was closed. This year, they were open. Mother nature did have her own agenda, however. Outside there was a raging snowstorm. This was the second day in which the storm continued to rain down upon the area blankets of snow. The wind was howling and drifts were formed so that it appeared as if mountains were forming right outside the door. Much of the staff had been released and only those necessary to keep the hotel operating were there, but because of the severe weather they had difficulty keeping up with the conditions. Clean one area, move on to the next, and return to re-clean the first area. Finally, the family volunteered to help. What else could they do? Power kept going on and off, and the guest as well as the staff conserved whatever power was left in the generators. Every room had a gas fireplace, but the massive wood burning hearth in the lobby was where most of the heat was generated keeping the hotel warm. The food stocks were plentiful, but because of the shortage of staff created by the storm and their additional responsibilities the family took up many of the everyday chores. It was a true collaboration. Who would have thought that this snowstorm would last this long, have this potential, or be this powerful?
Everyone began to pitch in from the youngest to the eldest. No task was too menial. Staff and the family members worked together, and somehow, unseen, and unpredictable, the family increased two-fold. Teams were organized and were responsible for shoveling, snow blowing, cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. It was truly an epic effort. When the sun set, as if one could see the sun, they all gathered in the great lobby to eat, drink, tell stories, and reminisce. What had begun as a relaxing vacation/reunion had transformed into a family history lesson with one story being spun after another. Even the staff members were interested by the memories shared and passed on. Some were, light-hearted, others tragic, and even a few dark stories managed to be told. The family secrets were now common knowledge, and no topic or story was taboo. There was always one thread of connectivity. It was the family and their history. It was entertaining, comical, tragic, sometimes death defying, and heroic. Tears were shed both from laughter and from sorrow. There were somber moments, reflective times, silent minutes, and howling laughter. Everyone had a story. The staff members also had stories, many of them similar. Somewhere the two groups meshed and became one. No one could pinpoint or knew when or how this transformation occurred, but they were all so similar and familiar, that everyone in the group became as one….
Today, the Church, as we know it, seems to be fractured. Attendance, commitment, support, and gatherings are sporadic, inconsistent, willy-nilly, and unimportant. Our lives have become more complex and our time has been divided into what we need to do versus what we need to prioritize. What has happened to us? Did we see this coming when sporting events, entertainment, rest and relaxation, or daily chores would catch up, overtake, and pass our religious life? No matter. It has happened. God, however, has been abandoned before. God has taken a back seat to human gratification in the past. God has often been placed second, third, or tenth in fulfilling our obligations and seeing to our comfortable, time-consuming good times. God, in fact, throughout history, has often been eliminated from our daily lives. He has become a back-burner figurehead. When times are simply wonderful, money is flowing, and we seemingly have not a care in the world, we easily disregard this paternal relationship. We accept a new philosophy and boldly proclaim to our psyche, “Who needs God?” Eventually, this degenerates into our clear-cut choice and credo.
Then something happens which shatters our lifestyle. We immediately begin our search for answers and seek common sense solutions. It is only after we are unable to solve any difficult challenge, or unbearable pain, we re-seek our relationship with the church. The church, however, is more than a problem solver, or answer machine. It is a solution provider. Unfortunately, too many of us have become so used to a disassociation with the church, that we shy away or make a half-hearted effort, only to discover that the church is everything we have ever needed, but have never spent the time with. We wonder away and make our choices based on pride, ego, and self-gratification, money, position, and comfort. In other words, we satiate our frivolous, temporal needs and abandon our love relationship to Christ the King.
The church is more than a place where we are baptized, are married, and bury our dead. It our daily problem solver. There is nothing we have endured which God, himself, has not been there to help us negotiate. There is not one circumstance God has not helped us to overcome, cope with, defeat, or inspire us to turn ourselves around. The Church is our family with God as our head of the household. It is our comfort, joy, laughter, tears, and sweat. Yet, today, we have no time in our daily lives to find this place. He is an afterthought.
It is never too late, fortunately to return. God is patient, kind, loving, and sympathetic, and he waits. We need, however, to make the effort and not wait until we are forlorn and without hope. He is here for us to save us. Once again, it comes down to choices. We can come together, or we can sit back until we are totally overcome.
We can be a family, again. All it takes….
…Sitting in the resort, stranded, and caught in a maelstrom, they became one family. Staff and the collection of reunion revelers. Soon the storm would abate and make its way out of the area. No one who had lived through the experience was ever far away from anyone else. They made every effort to continue to spend time with one another and to appreciate their relationship which grows to this day.
This is also what the church is. It is our opportunity to continuously grow with one another and with God. May He always be our comfort, our joy, and our love. Come and share His love. Come and share with one another. Come and be Family.