Years ago, I spent some time watching the Special Olympics on television, cheering on young people from all over the country who had special needs and physical challenges as they participated in athletic competitions. It was such a wonderful program. It warmed by heart to see these young athletes compete and demonstrate good sportsmanship.

Among all the events I watched, a track event was one that I remember most clearly. All the athletes were lined at the starting line, the starter’s pistol fired, and the runners began their sprint.

Suddenly, one of the athletes stumbled and fell hard on the track. The gasp of shock coming from the crowd could be heard clearly, even through the TV. Then I witnessed a beautiful and surprising scene. The other runners, hearing the crowd gasp and seeing the young man fall, slowed down to a walk. One by one, the athletes stopped in their pursuit of the finish line and went to assist their fallen friend. They helped him up, locked arms together, and carried the fallen athlete around the track until everyone completed the race. United, arm in arm, they all crossed the finish line together as one. The crowd went wild! It was truly a Special Olympics!

I truly believe these young athletes gave the world a beautiful demonstration of what true compassion and teamwork looks like, as well as showing how life is best lived. I believe life is best lived when we work together for a common good and a common purpose.

“Are we not stronger when we are unified, when we can support each other, when we can encourage each other, when we can actually attend to the needs of another?”

I believe Jesus demonstrated this when he sent His disciples to do the work of the Gospel and preach the Good News, heal the sick, and dispel unclean spirits. He sent them out to do the work of God in pairs. I believe Jesus does this for several reasons. He knows that the work of the Gospel is often difficult, and His followers will experience failure, rejection, and defeat. He also knows that life is always better lived when shared with another.

Jesus knows the delight of two people being able to share in a common experience, sharing stories with each other, and sharing both the successes and the failures. He promises that when two or more are gathered in His name, Jesus is right there with His disciples. He knows that when one of us is having a difficult time, there will be the other to help us, to lift our spirits, to remind us of our mission, and perhaps even to care physically for our needs.

And isn’t this the very reason we belong to a church? Are we not a group of faithful people who gather together to support one another in prayer and in doing the work of the Gospel? Are we not stronger when we are unified, when we can support each other, when we can encourage each other, when we can actually attend to the needs of another? How present is the wisdom of Jesus as He sends His disciples by twos into the world! We are never alone!

Throughout the month of July, we gather together as a church to celebrate the Eucharist. As you do so, remember that none of us are alone. We are all united as the children of God, supporting each other in prayer as we are nourished together by the presence of Christ in this Eucharist. I pray that during this month, you continue to share in the Eucharist with others.