“I can’t tell you how often, as a priest, I would meet with family members before a funeral and one of them would say to me, ‘Father, we’re not religious. Do we have to go through the funeral rites and have all those people crowding our lives at a time like this?’
And I would tell them, ‘Yes, you have to do that, not for God’s sake but for yours, because you’re going to feel alone and abandoned and you need to know that you are not alone. And you need to do it for your friends’ sake as well. They feel your pain and want to take some of it onto themselves, to grieve with you.’
“That is why we have to make room in our lives for people who may sometimes disappoint or exasperate us. If we hold our friends to a standard of perfection, or if they do that to us, we will end up far lonelier than we want to be.”
When the great Jewish philosopher and theologian Martin Buber was asked “Where is God?” he wisely avoided cliché answers like God is everywhere. Buber would answer that God is found in relationships. God is not found in people but between people.
When you and I are truly attuned to each other, God comes down and fills the space between us so that we are connected, not separated. Both love and true friendship are more than a way of knowing that we matter to someone else. They are a way of mattering to the world, bringing God into a world that would otherwise be a vale of selfishness and loneliness. Today’s Gospel calls us to slow our lives down to a liveable speed; to embrace the humility of Christ that begins with recognizing the goodness and dignity of others before our own; to find gratitude rather than stress in what we have been given; to take the time to discover in the stories of one another the loving presence of God in our midst. The journey to God is not travelled on highways and through airports; it is travelled in the joys and struggles of family life and friendship.