A beautiful, sunny spring morning greeted me as I left my home for the drive to Behchoko, a Tlicho community about 100 km east of Yellowknife. The road is pavement, but it is difficult to make good time for fear of going airborne over the frost heaves that have left the highway pockmarked and rolling like a poorly designed children’s roller-coaster at the county fair.
It was my first visit to the community as a Bishop and the pastor, Fr. Wes had asked if I would bless the new parish council members who had been nominated to serve. It was the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, and the readings of the day were very suitable for such a blessing.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles talked about the early Christian community and how everything was just perfect. The people worked well together, they cared for the poor in their midst, everyone was happy, and people were admiring them and coming to join them because of just how idyllic everything seemed to be.
I shared with the people how the image of the early Christian community reminded me of the pictures on the wall of the photographer’s studio, that my family went to when I was just a kid. These photos were of couples holding hands in a sunlit forest, robed college graduates clutching newly minted diplomas and fashion coordinated families cuddling newborn babies, everyone looking at the camera with big gleaming smiles.
While those pictures might have been stunning to look at, I knew in my heart that they did not bear much resemblance to the reality of life which is quite often less than perfect. Those pictures, while a credit to the photographer’s skill, don’t reflect; the ups and downs of young love, the anxiety provoking and financially draining years of academic life nor the sleepless nights and endless days in the lives of new parents.
Our lives, our families and our communities are far from perfect. But where would we be without our less-than-perfect families who always manage to put the fun in dysfunctional? The truth is that the early Christian family we read about today, though we count them as heroes, had their own flaws. We look to them as a good example not because they were perfect but because they persevered in desiring to do God’s will. They had their own ups and downs just like us.
The beauty of the Christian portrait is not the perfection of the family, but it is in the perfect love of the Lord that sustains them; what Sr. Faustina Kowalska would refer to as the, “Divine Mercy of Jesus”.
With that exhortation I blessed the new members of the parish council and encouraged them not to be perfect but to seek to follow God’s will and to listen to the people whom they were called to serve.
It was a beautiful Mass with everything translated from English into Tlicho and, by the time we had finished, two hours had come and gone. Afterward we gathered for tea, soup and bannock in the parish hall. I only had time for quick bite before my guide Mary took me out around the town to bless the people’s homes and to bring communion to the elders who could not make it Church.
On my drive home I noticed a large granite outcrop on the side of the highway. Someone had taken the time to spray paint on it a message in letters that were at least 10 feet high, “God Loves These People”. A perfect message for Divine Mercy Sunday.