What is the longest amount of time you have ever been by yourself? I mean, completely alone. I put this question to the 31 young people who came to Lux. teachings in November at St. Thomas Aquinas and All Saints parish in Bletchley.
Fr. Allan put his hand up and said he’d once spent a week by himself on an island, and that it was heavenly!
But actually, when God made paradise, he soon realised that the first human he created should not live in isolation:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
God designed us to live in community: And indeed we have many relationships that connect us to other people, one way or another. Using a ball of string, we each named somebody we had a connection to, and passed the string on. Soon a large web formed. From the people who make our clothes, to the people who drive us to school, we are connected to, directly or indirectly, hundreds of people every single day.
So we have connections with many people, but we also have the need for deeper relationships. And a real relationship will always demand an element of sacrifice. More on that in a second.
At this point I want to mention sacraments. When my mum, who went to a convent school, was little, she learnt about the Catholic faith by memorising lines from ‘The Penny Catechism.’ (It’s a bit like the YOUCAT nowadays). The Penny Catechism uses a beautiful phrase to explain the mystery of the sacraments: “Sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace.
Through the words and actions of a minister, God pours out his grace in the sacraments. For example, a priest would say, ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” as he pours water upon the person being baptised. The priest physically pours water and God spiritually cleanses the person. “An outward sign of inward grace.”
So in our group, we used jelly babies (any excuse!) to create dioramas of the sacraments being administered and asked ourselves, what physically happens, and what grace does God pour out?
In the Sacrament of matrimony, part of the physical sign is the union of the husband and wife. St. Paul tells us that the marriage union is a mirror image of Jesus’ deep love for his bride, the Church:
“…a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one body. This mystery has many implications; but I am saying it applies to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)
The intimacy of a husband and wife reflects the depth of Jesus’ love for you and me. Wow. No wonder the church tells us that sex is sacred.
So what does this mean for our relationships and for family life? Fr. Christopher talked about the recent Synod in Rome, where our own Bishop Peter, and lots of other Bishops from around the world, were talking about family life. Fr. Christopher said that marriage is about more than being attracted to somebody, and more than having compatible personalities even. Instead it is about self sacrifice: demonstrated to us perfectly on the cross. He explained that we are all called to love in a self-sacrificial way, no matter what our situation and who we are attracted to.
In Christina Mead’s words :
“If love was not supposed to include the pain of sacrifice, Christ would have saved us through a hug.”
After a Q & A, the evening finished with prayer and the group meditated on those well-known verses from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to consider the demands that real love places on us! Thank you to all who came and thanks to Fr. Christopher and his team of volunteers for welcoming us.