As humans we have a need to be a part of a community in order for us to become fully alive and live our best lives. Chris Hazell reminds us that “all aspects of our life – emotional, physical, spiritual etc – call for deep relationships in order to foster healthy living”. This is also something that we see right from the beginning of scripture; “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helpmate’” Gen 2:18. We are created as relational beings, and without this in our lives we will fail to reach our potential.
There are many examples of community found in scripture, one of those being the Visitation – when Mary visited Elizabeth and Zachariah (who were expecting a child), she seeks companionship from them soon after the Annunciation. In their meeting, Mary and Elizabeth are drawn closer to each other and are able to recognise the presence of God. Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”.
To be a part of a community (and to actually live and grow within a community) requires a certain amount of vulnerability. It means being known for who you really are, not hiding behind walls or masks that you may wear otherwise, but allowing your community to see the real you, to be loved by them but also challenged.
There are different ways we can experience community, but one way is by going to Mass and receiving the Holy Eucharist. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, He is not alone. Sacramentally we are receiving His Body and Blood, but because He is a part of the Holy Trinity which cannot be separated, in a way we are also receiving God the Father and the Holy Spirit. But the communion aspect is also much bigger than this. During Mass, ‘the veil between heaven and earth is torn’ and we are joined by the Church militant, the Church triumphant, and the Church suffering – this is the greatest community we can be a part of.
Someone who really knew and experienced this was St. Therese of Lisieux on the day she received her first communion. As she received Jesus, the joy was so overwhelming she began to weep. The Carmelite nuns, not understanding why she was crying assumed it was because her mother (who had passed away) was not there for her special day. But as St. Therese quotes; “As all Heaven had entered my soul when I received Jesus, my mother came to me as well. Nor could I cry because you were not there, we were closer than ever before. It was joy alone, deep ineffable joy that filled my heart.”
Saint Pope John Paul II talks about how he wanted to “rekindle this Eucharistic amazement”, that we would grow in our depth of understanding and awe of this sacrament. When we participate in the Eucharist, the wedding banquet of the Lamb, we become a part of the community of the Church, the Bride of Christ.