Judging from the top viral videos, we’re all suckers for reunions—especially those involving military people who have been separated from their families for many months. You can see hours of these moments online—including those involving pets reacting to their returned masters. You can feel the miraculous power of love in all of them.
This Sunday’s readings tell us that our Master longs for a reunion with us. Imagine how joyful our Creator feels when just one lost soul reconnects with him after a lifetime of separation! You don’t have to imagine. Just pay attention to this Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 49:3, 5-6), where God tells his servant that a reunion with the Israelites isn’t enough for Him.
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Our Father is calling us home, as if we were his prodigal sons and daughters. That calling is a repeated theme in the introduction of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:1-3), where he describes two-way calling:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
In those reunion videos, the moment of recognition is key to their emotional intensity. That’s what John the Baptist must have felt when, in Sunday’s gospel reading from John (Jn 1:29-34) he recognized our Lord spiritually, as savior, without knowing what the savior was supposed to look like physically.
“I did not know him,” John testifies, “but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
That’s how our Creator knows us, too—by the spirit he breathed into each of us. Ever since humanity abandoned that intimacy with him, many of us have dedicated our lives to getting it back. We yearn for salvation from our isolation and our Father yearns for our yearning.
The spirit of that reconnection with a loved one is what makes those reunion videos go viral. Although these moments document the first in-person contact between loved ones who have been away from each other for a long time, you can bet that even while apart they found alternative ways to connect, whether by Skyping, by phoning, by e-mailing or just snail mailing. All these communications are powered by love, not by any special occasion or holiday nostalgia. Prayer is a reunion like those.
Of course there are reunions driven more by nostalgia than by love—class reunions come to mind. This is where, every five or ten years, two classmates who may have been friends at one time try to recreate the recipe that formed their friendship. They might not even have bothered to do THAT if a third party hadn’t made all the arrangements and sent out the invitations. Many Christians take advantage of those nostalgic Christmas and Easter reunions with our Father, too, but like class reunions, they tend to be more obligatory than heartfelt.
God may occasionally call on some of us to be reunion organizers for any prodigal sons and daughters in our lives, just as he did with Isaiah. Or maybe He’s calling us to get-together with Him by revisiting some long lost relationships in our own lives here on earth. Either way, the miracle of healing that results among his children can be powerful enough to turn our nostalgia back into His love.