Posted by: mmreflections | August 17, 2011

Reunions! August 2011

August has been quite a month!  I had the joy of celebrating the 60th year anniversary reunion with my high school graduation class on the first Saturday of this month, followed by our family reunion the following day.  Both reunions were filled with shared memories, much laughter and great joy in being together with friends and family once again.

 At our high school reunion, one of the great delights was to be together once again with those classmates with whom I had attended school since first grade.  The other joy was to be back together again with best friends from high school days.  One of those friends continues to remind me of the day we played hooky from school and got caught.  He often tells his children about this day we played hooky and got caught.  Then he seems delighted to be able to go on to blame it all on me, his  friend who is now a priest.  Some classmates reminded me of the many other high school indiscretions which were part of our growing up days.  It was all in a spirit of love and friendship as we recognized and honored one another for the many accomplishments over the years since we left school.  We shared happy memories and sadness at the loss of friends and classmates who are no longer with us but have gone to their eternal reward.   The reality of our own impending departure became apparent as we said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would see each again.

The following day was filled with joy as four generations of our family gathered at the parish church where all of my generation was baptized.  Along with 100 family members were high school classmates who were in town for our high school reunion as well as the members of the parish who remembered our family and came to pray with us.  This was the church where my brothers and sisters were married and their children were baptized and some of them were also married and some of their children were also baptized.  This church was a most significant part of our lives.  Memories and nostalgia overflowed as we celebrated the Liturgy with praises to God for all the blessings we had received and for this opportunity to be together once again.  Before we left the church we gathered as a family for a memorial service to honor our grandparents, parents and other members who have passed from this life to the next.

Then we partied!  Good food, wine and fellowship followed as we gathered for our reunion banquet.  The caterer prepared a wonderful home style dinner with more than enough food for everyone.  I struggled to figure out which of the little children were great nieces and nephews or great-great nieces and nephews.  Cousins were overjoyed to know they had so many other cousins who arrived from near and far.  I sat there in awe as I witnessed all that was going on around us.  I realized what a blessing it is to see our children and grandchildren down to the second and third generations.  The now generation, my brothers and sisters and their spouses, have been slowing down in recent years.  They are all in their eighties,  the oldest living brother is ninety years old.  Our generation is passing away but the upcoming generations look promising.  Our mom and dad must also be witnessing from God’s Kingdom all that has come about from the children they brought into this world.

All things come to a close and the happy reunion days have passed, leaving only memories.  Saying our goodbyes was difficult.  Departures have always been difficult for me.  There have been so many!  As we parted, waving our tearful last goodbyes, many of us realized that we may not see each other again.   Still we hoped for a future reunion!  Whenever I feel a growing sadness at this realization, I am reminded of the prophetic words on the last pages of the Bible where the prophet deals with such closures: 

 “I saw new heavens and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer.  I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down out heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband.  I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out:  ‘This is God’s dwelling among men.  He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them.  He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away.'”  (Revelation 21:1-4)

Reunions help us to remember that we are all a part of something much greater than we realize.  In our current society we can very easily forget this truth and become self-preoccupied, self-centered and selfish.  Family life is where we first learn that we are not alone, that we are not the center of our world and that we have a responsibility of caring for others as well as ourselves.  When we leave our families of origin and begin new families of our own, we grow together and help make our world a better place.  This is where we are prepared to take our places in a larger community, the society beyond our original families.  In this larger community we manifest our concerns for others and realize we have a  responsibility to all people of every race, color, creed, orientation or character.  This is where we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.   But in a life apart from community we can easily forget our purpose for being on this earth.   Much of the sadness and depression and despair we witness in so many places is the result of this forgetfulness.

While attending these reunions this month I could not help but observe the overflowing joy, confidence and positive outlooks in many of my classmates and family members.  In listening to some of the discussions I came to realize that among the happiest people I met were those who were involved in helping professions or those who were reaching out to others in every way they could and not just centered on themselves.  Among my happiest classmates were those who were retired but excited about still being able to volunteer their talents to help others.  This was quite apparent as well with my nieces and nephews who were involved in similar ways, using their gifts and talents for the benefit of others at great sacrifice to themselves.  Where did they learn to do this?  I am convinced they discovered this secret to happiness in their own families, among their own siblings, among the good friends with whom they grew up.

I do not believe we need have great talents or an abundance of material treasures to be of help or service to others.  What we need are hearts filled with the desire to serve others, hearts filled with the desire to make our world a better place, hearts filled with the desire to fill our primary purpose for being on this earth:  to manifest God’s presence in this world and to be good stewards.  All creation is calling out to us!  We can only hear the cry if our hearts are open and we remember we are a small but important and unique part of the beautiful creation that surrounds us.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and power are his.  He causes the changes of the times and season, makes kings and unmakes them.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who understand.  He reveals deep and hidden things and knows what is in the darkness, for the light dwells with him.  To you, O God of our fathers, we give thanks and praise. (Daniel 2:20-23)

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