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In challenging times we are called to community

I firmly believe it’s in community that we find hope and joy, even in the midst of what seems like insurmountable darkness.
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Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

It’s something of a rarity for scripture verses to rattle around in my head. (I grew up Catholic. What more do I need to say?) However, my spirit has been mulling over three passages of late.

The first is a verse of Psalm 44 that reads “We sink down into the dust, our body cleaves to the ground.” That verse, as the TikTokers say, is a whole mood. It grabbed me recently because it’s how I’ve been feeling lately. It’s how I suspect a lot of us have been feeling lately – just completely, utterly and entirely done in. Whether it’s COVID or intense heat or fires or floods (or any of the other vaguely apocalyptical things that we’ve faced in the past two years) I’ve been left wondering this particularly dreary January whether I’ve got much left for whatever comes next.

That is what I think the two disciples on that lonely, bereft road to Emmaus also felt. It’s in Luke 24 (I had to look it up. I can never remember which Gospel has what passages. Again, Catholic.) Their entire world had ended. Jesus was gone. They were all in hiding, fearing for their lives. This is the second story that has been calling to me lately. It’s not so much that I identify with how the disciples were feeling – because I do – but more what happened after they shared a meal with Jesus, recognized him and saw him disappear.

It reads: “They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions.”

That’s the part that resonates. The disciples rushed back tell their community so that they could all share in the same feelings of hope and joy.

It’s that urge to bring light to others in their community that caught my attention when hearing this passage a few months ago. Jesus’ followers supported each other through this terrible time, and they were drawn together both in grief and in shared happiness. They got each other through the tragedy and beyond to what waited.

The third story is the one about Jesus healing the paralytic at Capernaum. Friends carried a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing, but the crowds were too thick to get through. Undaunted, they made an opening in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. That’s love and that’s community – doing whatever it takes to take care of and support those in need.

For some reason, those three scriptural snapshots have captured my imagination lately. Mainly because, when I’m at my lowest and not sure what to do, I reach out to those who love and care for me to find hope and support. Equally important, I think, is that I try to be there for others when life conspires to make things difficult for them and bring light, whatever that means.

It’s how community – and I define that broadly to include family, chosen family, friends, neighbors and people I don’t know well – is meant to work. We give of ourselves when we can and ask for and accept help when we need it. It’s how we’re meant to get through tough times, I think.

It’s why Jesus could disappear after breaking bread with the disciples. He knew they had both each other and a wider community waiting for them. They would be ok.

I firmly believe it’s in community that we find hope and joy, even in the midst of what seems like insurmountable darkness. It bears remembering during any wearying circumstance, but particularly right now.

Kevin Aschenbrenner is a Victoria-based writer, poet and communications professional. He holds an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. He blogs at www.dearpopefrancis.ca.

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE: https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking

* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, January 22nd 2022