Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday in the 6th Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor
Parting’s Sweet Sorrow

Readings: Acts 16:22-34; Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8; John 16:5-11
Pictures: CC lanier67

It is better for you that I go…

Whatever Shakespeare might have written about parting being such sweet sorrow, it does seem that, for the disciples in today’s gospel, to whom Jesus has been bidding farewell, it is the pain of parting that is much more keenly felt. As Jesus observes concerning them: grief has filled your hearts. It is probably not difficult for us to empathize with the disciples. Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, especially not if the parting is painfully premature. And those of us who have grown attached to our Lord will also know how painful it can be when he occasionally chooses to let us feel the weight of his absence. What do we do during these times? How do we cope?

Even as we might be tempted to sink too deeply into depression, perhaps we might learn to heed the Lord’s call to consider carefully where he is going. At first, this might seem a cruel sadomasochistic joke. Of course we know where he is going! We are quite aware of the horror towards which he is walking. Are such considerations not more likely to further shatter our already broken hearts? Are they not more likely to paralyze us with even greater fears of the terrors of the night?

And yet, we mustn’t forget what the gospels tell us about the soldier who stood guard at Jesus’ execution: When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39). Quite amazingly, it is precisely in witnessing the terrible suffering and humiliating death of Christ that the centurion comes to profess what even the apostles hadn’t yet quite fully grasped.

Isn’t this also what we find in the first reading today? What is it that moves the jailer to accept baptism, himself and all his family? Is it really the fearsome might of the earthquake that shook the jail and loosened the prisoners’ chains? Or is it not rather the quiet power of the faith that enabled Paul and Silas to remain in their cell even when they had already been set free? Although Peter and Silas may, at first, seem to be doing the opposite of what Jesus does in the gospel – they stay, but Jesus goes – they are actually imitating their Master in their willingness to embrace the pain and ignominy of the Cross. And the powerful effects of their actions are seen in the jailer’s conversion. It is in witnessing their willingness to go to Calvary that the jailer’s heart is moved.

It is better for you that I go…

Here we see something that the saint we are commemorating today knew well. As we prayed in the opening prayer, in meditating on the sufferings of your Son and in serving your Church, St. Catherine was filled with the fervor of your love…

It is better for you that I go…

How is the Lord inviting us to meditate more deeply and to identify more closely with his going today?

1 comment:

  1. For a moment, I feel rather puzzled. How to center one's life on a God who says, "It's better for you that I go"?

    Yes, the Holy Spirit will come, etc. Still, if I lived in that time, I think I'd very much prefer the physical presence of our Lord. Then it became a little clearer: Whether in going or staying (or anything else), the disciples (and we) are called to imitate Him in embracing the pain and ignominy of the Cross.

    However, while I understand this well enough with my mind, I'm not sure that I'll be ready to do this with all my heart. Also, how to tell whether the Spirit is calling one to go or stay? Just choose the one with greater potential for pain? :-p

    By the way, this morning, I'm especially moved to read of the responses to a raging fire that razed the Chapel and Common Center in John Michael Talbot's monastery to the ground on April 28. JMT actually blogged about it, sharing photos and thoughts that "God is stripping us back to what is really essential to our way of life... we may have lost some buildings, but He will make us stronger for going through this together."


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