The Flesh is the Pivot of Salvation
Starting from her need, Michelle travels from Canada to the US for a weekend with friends
Last December, I did not welcome the arrival of the new Omicron wave, nor was I thrilled to learn that, after two years of struggle and three rounds of vaccination, we were once again being put in a quasi-full lockdown here in Quebec. However, it was only as I started seriously considering the invitation to a weekend in Sardinia, New York, that I truly understood the extent of the effect this last lockdown had had on me.
When I first talked to my parents about this trip, they were both concerned – because of the COVID-related risks, but also because of the long drive in uncertain winter conditions I was to face to get there. I understood their concerns and, at first, I resigned because I did not want to put them in a difficult situation. I also agreed with them; it seemed totally crazy to drive to the US to spend a weekend in the same room as two dozen people when I couldn’t even enter my best friend’s house here. However, it was at this moment that I realized how much I really needed this weekend. The weight of the loneliness of a lockdown, of trying to make plans but always having them get cancelled by new rules, of living my whole life on Zoom, was slowly becoming unbearable.
I knew that this weekend would help me change my perspective, that it would be a much-needed reminder of the bigger horizon of my life, that, at that moment, was so difficult for me to see in my life here in Montreal. When I shared this with my parents, reopening the conversation that I previously had assumed was closed, it was beautiful to see their shift in perspective. Starting from this immense need I had instead of from the fear we have been living under for too many months, they went out of their way to help me find a safe way to get to Sardinia.
It turns out I was right; I really did need this weekend. It was the simplest reminder, that we need so desperately to be together, to accompany each other in all our needs. In this case, our friend Francesca’s need was to have her friends help her introduce her students at Houghton College to the life of the Movement. We all traveled many hours to be together and to meet this small group of students in the remotest area of New York state. To see so many people go out of their way to be together, taking care of each other in a way that I have only ever seen in this place, I was reminded of what being alive, truly alive, can look like. I was awestruck to see Margherita and Tommaso Tebaldi drive seven hours with their five kids, to feed a group of thirty people and prepare beautiful songs for them. In front of this, I could not remain indifferent. I was amazed that living in such a way was possible, and my heart ached for nothing less than this intensity.
On the first morning of the weekend, I was asked to share the letter I wrote to the Primer of Quebec, asking him to reopen churches (one of the many restrictions imposed last December was the closure of all places of worship). Looking back on this weekend, I can see that my letter was expressing something that I continued to understand during those two days together – that nothing can replace the flesh. I needed to be reminded that the face of Jesus is real, and that He is present in the friends around me, those I can touch and embrace. This weekend my heart was reawakened by the care that was put into preparing songs, presentations, food, witnesses, by the faces of these friends that I had never met before this weekend but that are now my family. It reminded me that the desire of my heart is infinite, and that I never want to settle for less than this infinite. One song we sang said: “The people I see return my greetings, the things in which I believe are concrete all around me. It is you, Lord, answering me: Here I am.” (Le Stoppie Aride)
This “Here I am” that I had been desperately searching for, I found in each of the faces of my friends, old and new. If I cannot give myself for my friends, if I cannot grow with them, embrace them with my whole life, then what am I here for?