LABADIE: Resurrection in community

August 17, 2021

As a student, there was always something so exciting about the start of the academic year. A new classroom, schedule, set of writing utensils brought the sense of a fresh start. And this particular start of the semester brings with it an entirely new dimension of beginning with the opportunity of resuming full(er) in-person operations.
The suffering wrought by the coronavirus pandemic has been experienced in sickness, death and deep loneliness.

Illness has a way of increasing isolation in a way that feels quite unnatural to us as human beings. Created in the image and likeness of a God who is relationship, we crave connection and intimacy with others. Put simply: We are made for community.

The first six weeks of the school year are vital in helping students feel welcome and get a sense of belonging. One of the key ways in which campus ministries do this is through small groups. There is a saying in the profession of social work that “relationships are the vehicle of change.” The first step in helping another person to meet their goals is establishing a relationship of trust and support.

The same holds true in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The first step of conversion is trust. Only from a relationship of trust might someone become curious and open to learning about the person of Jesus and seeking the life in abundance that he offers.

The Scriptures tell us that the spiritual life is one we do together. From the Garden of Eden, through the desert, promised land and years of exile, God revealed Himself in and through community. We see the centrality of communal life present in Jesus’s public ministry in numerous ways. Jesus intentionally sought out those rejected by society: tax collectors, prostitutes, those deemed unclean.

He sat and dined with them. He was present with them. He loved them and challenged them to grow in holiness. He invited conversion in the context of relationship.
During Jesus’s public ministry, physical healing often went hand in hand with communal reconciliation. The sick were often alienated, and individuals were healed by being brought back into the heart of the community. Jesus revealed His glory to a few on Mount Tabor, to a small group walking to Emmaus. Jesus prepared and sent a group of 12 to minister in his place, sending them out two by two. Jesus is known through community. To this day, we experience the source and summit of our faith when we are gathered at the table to celebrate the Eucharist. The spiritual life is one we do together.

This new school year, I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone to welcome someone new. As the Basilian Fathers like to say, ministry is “loitering with intent.”
Invite that person to grab a cup of coffee and share your stories. Invite one or two more to join you and open up the Scriptures together. In doing so, you will meet Christ. †

Nicole Labadie, MDiv., is the director of campus ministry at the University of St. Thomas.