“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus is always with us. Jesus never abandons us. Jesus is always at our side. We believe this and we profess this, but when things get desperate in our lives, we are so quick to forget this. When times are tough, we are so quick to ask: where is God? Friday night, a friend called me after a having a bad day. She is a woman of strong faith, daily Mass, prayer, but as happens to all of us every now and then, she was having a bad day. I asked her if she had gone to Mass that day. Yes. I asked her if she had done her prayers that day. Yes. I asked her where her friends were because they are also strong in their faith, and they were scattered, and I thought of the last verse of today’s gospel. Sometimes we just need to stop and pray with our friends, with our family, with those close to us because Jesus promises that he WILL be there. What else do we need?
The readings today call us to be united to our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in this unity that Christ is found, and it is in this community that we experience divine love. St. Paul speak beautifully about this in the second reading where he reminds us that in loving our neighbor we fulfill the law and God’s plan for us to look out for one another. In loving our neighbor we become Christ for them. And in that love, when fraternal correction is needed, as Jesus explains in the Gospel, then that correction will be embraced in love. As I say constantly during weddings, we are responsible for each other’s salvation. And it is through our neighbors and through those we love that we experience the presence of Christ.
My friend wasn’t the only one who had a bad day on Friday. Mine was not necessarily bad. It was a rollercoaster, but throughout the day I kept getting reminders through others that Christ was at my side. Early in the day, it was from the joy of my preschoolers when I walked into their classroom. At the end of the day, it was from an elderly priest whom I had never even met. He was here to celebrate our evening Mass because I had a school function, and I went over to the chapel to meet him. When I entered the sacristy, this wonderful priest looks at me and joyfully said, “You’re the new pastor!” and embraced me with a father’s love. We chatted briefly because Mass was about to start, and as he was about to turn away to go into the chapel he tells me, “Father, whatever you need, you can count on me!” Then this elderly priest did something that only my father and my mother still do to me to this day: he traced the sign of the cross on my forehead and said “May God bless you.” Yes, priests need priests too. I was tired when I walked into that sacristy, and I left renewed because I had experienced Christ in this priest that I had never met who was so happy to meet me. This is the love that St. Paul urges us to give to each other. This is the love that brings the presence of Jesus Christ into our midst. These small acts of love and kindness can make a difference in the life of someone who is down, who is sick, who is alone, who is desperate, or is just having a bad day. Always remember that you walk out of this Church every Sunday with the living presence of Christ in your hearts. Share it with someone in need this week because where two or three are gathered together in His name, Jesus Christ our Lord is right there with you.