May 25: Separate but Together

By Bassey Ekong
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As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! (1Thess2:17-18). The prohibition for the faith communities, worldwide, to not meet has engendered the nostalgic feelings of all true Christians to resonate this statement by the Apostle Paul. While we always read Scripture from within a particular context and moment in history, there are times in which it seems almost impossible to not read our present reality into a past moment.

When we read St. Paul’s words above, for example, about being separated from those he loved and cared about in person and in soul, who in 2020 cannot relate to this sentiment? I imagine we have all seen heartwarming images during this pandemic of loved ones who are separated in body, but creatively showing their love and affection for one another in heart. We were originally created to be complete as, in a minimum, two but especially, as a family however large it may be. All Christians from all denominations belong to the same family of brothers and sisters serving one Father and the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. Even when we are forced apart, our hearts remain deeply connected with those we love-all our neighbors (see Mark 12: 30-31).

Rightly understood, self-care is an important and even essential part of human flourishing. We must learn to tend to God’s renewing work inside of us as we are remade and reborn as children in his kingdom. And yet, regardless of what we are often told, true joy and fulfillment is not found simply in your own self-satisfaction. There is a greater and deeper life that is only found when we give ourselves away for the good of others. (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Joy is found when we invest in others and see them become the people they are meant to be.

Though St. Paul had certainly been personally transformed by the love of God in Jesus, this was not his hope or joy. What was? Seeing that transformation occurred in the lives of his friends. Their new life in Christ was his great joy and source of abiding hope, and it is meant to be ours as well. It’s the combined efforts of the leaders and the followers to ensure no brother or sister in the faith and in the fold is left behind. We must be our brothers’ and in deed, our sisters’ keepers. Let’s not feel complete without one another. We could be separated physically, especially at this pandemic forced social-distancing order, but we could be creative to make nobody feel alone and isolated. May God help the Church, His bride, in Jesus’ name.

In order to know the joy that St. Paul speaks of, you and I must be willing to first do the hard work of living and loving for the sake of others. What does it look like for you to truly give your life away, without expecting anything in return? It is so easy to live out of mixed motives, doing good for another yet still mindful of the benefit that comes back our way. Yet what a gift it would be to long to see someone face to face for no other reason than to see them living life as God made it to be lived, and that alone being for you and me a deep well of unspeakable joy! Note: The triangle of love is broken if it doesn’t include others-our neighbors. Life would be too cold, cruel and lonesome without a community.

Let’s pray: Father, help us to stay connected in heart even when we are apart from those we love, praying for them and seeking their good, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’sreading: 1 Chronicles 25-27; John 9:1-23

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