John 17: 1-11a
Can you recall your experience of seeing family members or dear friends leaving to return home after a wonderful vacation? The experience for me has always been mixed: "Thanks for coming! We’ve had a glorious time! But…I am going to miss you. Let’s keep in touch by phone or email or mail. Love you!"
Paul has mixed thoughts and emotions as he says "goodbye" to the leaders from Ephesus. There is joy, there is sorrow. He won’t be seeing them again. He is sad. There is a cloud overhead. Indications have been given by the Holy Spirit that imprisonment and hard days lie ahead. But he is still driven by his call and desire to continue to spread the "good news" entrusted to him. Paul has known a deep interior change since his conversion. Life…what is it all about? Paul’s answer is: "I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace."
Each of us has been given the gift of life which has been graced through baptism to become a son or daughter of our heavenly Father. We are family. Jesus is our brother. Each of us has been uniquely blessed with gifts, talents and, yes, with limitations. So we are also challenged as Paul was. You and I are asked the question: So…what is my life all about? The answer continues to unravel, to be revealed as we, too, undergo that deep internal change in our relationship to God, to others and to ourselves. How do our faith, hope and love continually, ever so slowly, sometimes quickly, affect our thinking and acting. Sometimes the changes come through joy filled experiences, sometimes through pain and sorrow. And so we have kept growing, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes just holding on tightly to the Lord’s hand as He guides us though darkness, and still, at other times skipping along with joy and peace.
Like Paul, you and I need to keep in touch with Jesus. So much of what we see, experience and are challenged by, makes no sense unless we keep coming back to Jesus and his love for each and all of us. His words, his teaching are backed up with his loving concern. "Come, take up your cross and follow Me." He will never abandon us. "Greater love than this no one has but that he lay down his life for his friends."
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.