OUR OPINION: A season of reunions pulls separation back together

By NEMS Daily Journal

“How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters? By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them. By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests. By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party. And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24).
“That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity. The past is wiped out. What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.”
Henri J. M. Nouwen
So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:20-24 (Common English Bible)

Every year, the Daily Journal publishes scores of short notices of family reunions. Some people scour the newspaper every week to see if any branch of their family is reuniting.
Some families have annual reunions, some only once in a blue moon. Some families talk about them and never have them. Some families don’t give reunions a thought.
In the same vein, some people go to reunions dreading every minute in anticipation and arrive to find a welcome strong enough to overwhelm phobias and worries and even bad memories and worst mistakes.
Those welcomes are like the welcome extended the prodigal son in the biblical parable in Luke’s gospel. The story is universally appealing even in its Christian specificity.
Summer is a big season for reunions. Families – especially those with children of school age – have more time and travel usually is easier.
Some families go to the same “home places” every year. Some families decide a new destination every year and make their reuniting a vacation and a big party.
Frederick Buechner, a noted writer of eloquent fiction and meditative prose, says of families, “It is not so much that things happen in a family as it is that the family is the things that happen in it. The family is continually becoming what becomes of it. It is every christening and every commencement, every falling in love, every fight, every departure and return.”
The fights and the departures, temporary or forever, don’t get talked about as much or as honestly as the easily developed conversations, but those hard things are important in the longer, more important outcomes.
Buechner says, “A family is a web so delicately woven that it takes almost nothing to set the whole thing shuddering or even to tear it to pieces. Yet the thread it’s woven of is as strong as anything on earth.”
Families who reunite, however often or seldom, powerfully remind all the relations that no one is an island.