Reflection for Saturday, May 16, 2020: 5th week in Easter.
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|In today's gospel reading, Jesus continues his final testament to his friends. He offers words of caution. If you choose to follow me, your lives will involve challenges. Because you are my friends, I offer you a new way of living in harmony. It is quite simple; love one another. But if you choose to follow me, which means following the one that sent me, you will be hated. You will no longer belong to the world, and the world will persecute you.|Following the resurrection, the disciples lived in an in-between time. A time they did not choose. They had no choice but to come to terms with what they had lost. Initially, they hid, and some of them tried to return to their lives before Jesus. It seems that at some point, they came to the realization there was no going back. They accepted that their lived experiences of Jesus, including his death, and resurrection had transformed them. They no longer fit the paradigm of the world they knew before Jesus. The only way out of the in-between time was to go forward. I can imagine this decision involved many conversations and many questions such as: "Can we return to our old lives?" "If we do not go back, how do we go forward?" "This is all new, uncharted territory, how can we decide, now that our Master is gone?" "Remember, Jesus told us we would be hated and persecuted. If the world hates and persecutes us, can we succeed?"|I am sure my imagining of the questions is influenced by where I see our world today. We are in an in-between time, a place we did not choose to go. COVID-19 has inflicted excruciating physical, mental, and emotional pain on many people. At the same time, life has slowed down, allowing time for transformation. Like the disciples, we cannot go back to who we were pre-pandemic. We have no choice but to come to terms with our situation. However, we do have the freedom to choose how we integrate these experiences and who we become. |Some of us might be asking, "How can I decide what to do?" St. Ignatius of Loyola, through the Spiritual Exercises, offers us the gift of spiritual discernment to help us decide (elect) how to proceed. We see a glimpse of this at work in today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles (16:1-10). Paul and Timothy rely on the Holy Spirit to guide their teaching and missionary travels. By trusting God, and choosing to do the work God has in mind, "The churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number."|In our time, the world looks back to the early church and sees the impact of the apostles' choice (election) to follow in Christ's footsteps, no matter the cost. When the world looks back at the COVID-19 pandemic, what will the world see about our choice (election) to follow Christ?|"Fidelity consists in walking at God's pace, day after day, with enough vision gained from discernment to keep moving forward, and enough flexibility to change paths when the gentle breath of the Spirit leads us where and as it wants." - Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Address to the World-Wide Gathering of Provincials of the Society of Jesus, Loyola, Spain, September 22, 2000.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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