We recently went on vacation with my three children and their four cousins for a long weekend in the mountains. The kids played together every waking minute!
There were several times during the weekend when the adults were gathered in the kitchen discussing where to go and when to go and how to get there and what to do when we got there. As the adults worked to fill the day with activity, I looked over into the family room and saw the kids pretending together, giggling together, and having a ball! I commented that they really didn't care what we did as long as they were together. They could be in an empty room with nothing but each other and they would be happy as long as they were together. Of course they enjoyed going to an amusement park and hiking in the mountains and swimming in the pool, but they also would have had fun together had we not done those things.
I see this joy of being together clearly when a grandma or a grandpa or a cousin walks in the front door and a little kid runs through the house squealing as loud as her little voice can squeal and smiling as broadly as her little mouth can smile to give that person the biggest bear hug her little arms can give. It doesn't matter where the family member came from or what the family member is going to do here or how long the family member is going to stay here, all that matters is that right now they're together.
Of course as adults we also enjoy spending time together, but we sometimes feel a need to fill the time with activities and things to do. When preparing for the vacation, we spent months trying to find the perfect location, searching for the perfect house, planning the perfect agenda. Doing shared activities as a group is great, but the most important thing about a family vacation is being together as a family.
When the disciples tried to send the children away, but Jesus told them to "let the children come to me and do not prevent them" (Luke 18:16), I wonder if the children ran across the field squealing as loud as their little voices could squeal and smiling as big as their little mouths could smile to give Jesus the biggest bear hug their little arms could give. How much different would our world be if we recaptured that joy of just being together with any of the other brothers and sisters God has placed on this planet with us?
The importance of being together is even greater in our Church family. While it's easy for us to get lost in debates about if we should play an organ or a guitar at mass or if the priest's homilies are too long or if bells should be rung before during the Eucharistic prayer, it is more important is that we are united together in Christ. I think we would do well to remember that there is far more that unites us than there is that divides us and we should never let our differences tarnish the unity that we have in Christ.
Perhaps that childlike joy at being together was part of the reasoning that led Jesus to say "unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) When the Catechism of the Catholic Church attempts to define heaven, it describes it in terms of with whom we will be together: "This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - the communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels, and all the blessed - is called 'heaven.' ... To live in heaven is 'to be with Christ.'" (CCC 1024-1025) When we imagine our life after death, so often questions revolve around what we will do and what it will be like. Will we meet at pearly gates in the sky? Will the streets be paved with gold? Will I walk my dog or snuggle with my cat? These questions are interesting to ponder, even if it's impossible to answer this side of heaven. However, what will be most important is that we will be together with God and with the Saints. The very name we use to describe those friends of God who have gone before us, the Communion of Saints, emphasizes the importance of their being together, united as one with God in a Communion.
It is fun to imagine the house we'll stay in on family vacation and plan the fun activities we'll do together on the vacation, but for a family vacation it is most important that we be together as a family. It is fun to imagine dancing beside crystal seas or feasting in giant heavenly mansions, but in our eternal life it will be most important that we will be together with God for eternity. When my time on this earth has ended and I see God for the first time, maybe I'll run squealing as loud as my voice can squeal and smiling as big as my mouth can smile to give God the biggest bear hug by arms can give but all that will matter in that moment is that we are together.
In her book Where Two or Three are Gathered, Florence Caffrey Bourg wrote "What makes a family a domestic church is a habit of interpreting its ordinary life - for better or worse - as the means through which family members are to seek, know, and love the God made known in Jesus Christ." This is one example of how I interpreted an ordinary experience from life in my domestic church. Have you had a similar experience in your domestic church?