Anni Harry ponders our call to see Christ in our neighbor and act like Christ toward others.
My life has been crazy this past summer. Between ending one job in ministry and moving across country during a pandemic, and preparing for a start of virtual learning for my oldest, life has been extremely chaotic and busy. Throw in the extenuating circumstances keeping our family pretty conservative when it comes to social distancing, we’re kind of out of practice in meeting new people and getting to know others. And, given my personality, I am always ready to accomplish the mission at hand, come in to a new place quietly and leave in a whirlwind!
During the summer months, as we moved, I completed a couple online courses – one directed at empowering young adults to live as disciples of Christ and live the mission of evangelizing. The other, on the best practices of running a specific ministry program. I have lived the past couple months eyeballs deep in transition, while learning something new.
A common theme that kept coming up throughout the courses was the theme of building relationships – the importance of building relationships, the purpose of strengthening them, and the challenges that are posed in relationships with a pandemic response.
This past week, I settled into a new job in ministry work. I am meeting new-to-me parishioners, and being a face of welcome to brand new people walking through the doors for the first time. As I listened to one individual’s story, I found myself considering rushing that person along since I had another appointment coming up. It had been a day of rushing from one appointment to another – with my family being on the waiting end for several hours, and I didn’t want to leave someone else waiting.
Yet, as I contemplated a path forward with the person in front of me, I heard a whisper on my heart emphasize, “Relationship. Focus on the relationship.”
In the two-hour traffic jam I found myself sitting in after the end of work that day, I had time to reflect on those words: Relationship. Focus on the relationship.
How often do we find ourselves rushing, even in a time of relative shut-down in certain parts of the country? How frequently do we find ourselves rushing our own kids with encouragement to, “Move the story along”? How does our body language express our impatience in dealing with certain circumstances, which send a clear message that we would be anywhere but the place we are standing or sitting?
When we look to the Bible, we see clear examples of what relationships mean to humankind. Relationships are at the center of every story in the Bible.
And, when we look to our Savior, He is in relationship from the very beginning – from the babe of John the Baptist’s recognition of the Messiah, to those who were found grieving at the foot of His Cross. Children, who are notorious for dragging on stories, being messy, and getting underfoot, were graciously and lovingly welcomed by Christ, Who also admonished His followers for their own impatience.
In testimonies I have read about those who have either joined the Catholic Church as adults, heard directly from cradle-Catholics who underwent a reversion after having been away from the Church for a long while, or those who have expressed their own journey with the Catholic Faith, so many of the stories boil down to one word: Relationships.
Christ was in the business of relationships. He built relationships, and He strengthened those relationships.
He wanted us to connect and build each other up. He also wanted us to love one another. And, in that desire, He modeled how to do so.
We, as human beings, have been created to know God, love God, and serve God.
We have been created to do so, not by ourselves and in our own individual bubbles; rather, we have been created to know, love, and serve God within our relationships with others.
In a time of pandemic, where I have seen (and been guilty of myself) able-bodied people rush past those who are moving slower, we need to all call to mind the importance of relationship. In a time in which our faces are masked at the guidance of the CDC and local policies, and thus facial expressions don’t easily make us able to tell if the other person is smiling or on the verge of tears, we need to make a pointed effort to recall the importance of relationship.
We are on earth to know, love, and serve God through our relationships with others.
As I sat in the traffic jam, contemplating relationships, I reflected on Christ in the middle of the storm of life. As the world swirls around us, He extends His hand to help pull us in to quiet reflection and contemplation. He offers us peace and comfort. Christ offers us connection and relationship.
When we sit with another person, and simply listen, focus, and remain present, we offer the other person the same calmness that Christ offers each of us. We offer the other person the connection and relationship that our secular world so desperately attempts to insist are unimportant.
It is through the connection and relationship with others that we will see our spirits soar to greater heights. If we are intentionally seeking relationship – whether it is a fleeting one with a stranger on a street corner, or deepening one with a family member – our soul will continue to return to the peace and comfort of Christ’s outstretched hand.
If we focus on relationship, we will see Christ in our neighbor, and we will act like Christ toward someone who most needs His gentle disposition.
Now, more than ever, relationship is important.
Relationship building is vital to remaining connected in this very topsy-turvy time.
And, in order to focus on relationship, we must be willing to sit and be still and present with another person. We must put aside our own desires to charge ahead, make plans, and have all the answers, and rather simply adapt our pace to the pace of the adult or child sitting in front of us.
As August comes to a close, and September ushers in a new month, I ask you to join me in intentionally working with the five simple words placed on my heart not too long ago:
Relationship. Focus on the relationship.
Copyright 2020 AnnAliese Harry
Image: Pexels (2019)
About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.