On Saturday afternoon in a twist of plans I spent most of it in the garden with one of my Friar Brothers. Together we worked on preparing the garden for planting and prepared some new spaces for plants. We worked together on some projects and on others we worked independently. Even when we worked on the projects independently, we had the common goal of the garden being ready for planting. It was a glorious afternoon to enjoy the sun and the spring weather and to spend time with one of the brothers who has impacted my Franciscan journey the most.
As our day wrapped up, I was mindful of the importance of relationships. The value we place on them and the need we have for them. I greatly value this Franciscan brother of mine. He offers me perspectives I often fail to see. His demeanor is so different from mine that it often triggers an awareness or causes me to ask myself how did I react to that situation. His laughter and his joy are contagious which are reminders that I need to at times let go and at other times laugh more.
Earlier this week he said that “he is more irritable as of late.” I looked at him and said “if this is you irritable than I don’t know what I am.” His irritableness is the furthest thing from irritable, he laughs more in a day than most of us do in a week. His drive and focus keep us on our toes and he has this sense of security about him which is rooted in Christ. His statement of being irritable did bring to light that I maybe hold on to things way to long and that I sometimes can lose perspective.
This thought on being more irritable made me think of two lines from this Sunday’s gospel (John 14.15-21) Jesus said, “The Spirit of truth… you know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” The second one is “because I live, you also live…I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Why those two lines and how does being irritable make a connection you may be asking?
Simply because these two lines speak of relationship. They speak of the value of relationship and how our lives are entwined in the power of relationships. Jesus tells his disciples that they know the Spirit of truth because he abides with them and is in them. That is personal and intimate. It speaks to how personal our God is with being in relationship with us. It reminds me that no matter what type of day I am having or how I am reacting God is relationship in me. It also reminds me that if the Spirit of truth is abiding in me and I (we) live Christ then I must be aware of what I bring to relationships.
Relationships are about life. Think about any relationship we have. Either it is life giving or life-draining. All I have to do is think of the relationship I have with the Brother I gardened with today and I can see the value of life-giving and honest relationships. Jesus said, “Because I live, you also live.” We encounter the witness and power of Christ through the actions and deeds of others. I don’t live because of the Brother that I gardened with, but I do live better because he witnesses Christ to me and I can appreciate the interwoven beauty of the Divine at work in him, in me and in our community.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, I hope it has been about our relationships. Who has impacted us? How are we in relationship with others? Who are our neighbours? Who has cared or provided for me during this crisis? Who has cared for the poor, the lonely, the sick, the hungry? Have I made any adjustments to the way I am in relationship with others? What relationship have a seen in the media which has encouraged me and inspired me in my own relationships or what I need to do for others?
Each day we are part of relationships – that is not a newsflash. Some days there are challenges – like seeing the same 8 faces for the last 8 weeks. Some days there are pure moments – the quiet stillness as we are gathered in prayer. Some days there are joy-filled moments – lingering at table together and hearing stories. Some days, well most days there is a combination of all these. It is the great mystery of life and the great mystery of being in relationship. At the end of this gospel discourse Jesus says, “The one who keeps my commandments… I will reveal myself to them.” The commandment of Jesus is to love. To love God and neighbour. This calls us to be in relationship. Where was Christ and where has love been revealed to you this past week? For me it was in the middle of a garden patch.
As this pandemic shifts and we move into new realities and a new normal, as restrictions ease or change let us not forget the importance of relationship and the kindness they need. We are all brother and sister; the world over. Let us not abandon the call to love, rather this week let us pick up the commandment to love with renewed vigor. Where and who needs your attention to strengthen the bonds of relationship and the call to love?