Updated: May 16
Recently on the news, I saw a brief reference to the word, "O'ahu," on the "Hawaiian Word of the Day" segment. O'ahu means, "The Gathering Place." It's a beautiful image to ponder. It's charming to consider that the namer of our island paradise associated so much natural beauty with the notion of "gathering."
While there's a real theological significance to the idea of gathering, we can never forget that there's a natural beauty to the gathering of people, as well. We were created in the image and likeness of God, who is a Community of Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It's in our nature to be in communion (and community) with one another. Our sense of identity is informed by our communal relationships. When we're unable to gather, there's a rupture in how things ought to be. That rupture goes beyond the physical separation of the community, and wounds also our sense of identity.
In our gospel passage today (John 14:1-12), Jesus speaks of a separation between he and his disciples. He must depart from them for a while. Naturally, the disciples become sad. Christ's departure for a while will change them. But Jesus tells them, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me... I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be." In short, their community will be ruptured for a time, but Jesus promises them that he himself will gather them together again. And the place of gathering is nowhere other than that relationship between Father and Son (more on this later in a future reflection).
In this pandemic crisis, we are physically separated from one another. It's a violence against the natural good of the gathering of people; justifiable, perhaps, for health and safety reasons, but not without other repercussions. Many of the faithful are not permitted to participate at the Holy Mass for the present time. But as it was with the disciples, the same is true today. Jesus gathered the disciples after his resurrection. He will again be the one to gather us together as a community of believers at a time that he chooses. Until then, let not our hearts be troubled. We have faith in God; we have faith in Jesus.