Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prayerful Partings

Prayerful Partings 

May 15, 2013
Wednesday in the Seventh Week of Easter

By Colleen O’Sullivan

At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the church of Ephesus:  “… I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.  And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them…  When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all.   (Acts 20:29-30, 36)

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:  “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one…. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.  (John 17:11b, 15)


The dreams we have today, O Lord,
are only a shadow of your dreams for us,
only a shadow of your dreams for us,
if we but follow you.  (From “Only a Shadow” by Rev. Carey Landry)


A few weeks ago, I was looking through old photo albums when I came across one I had almost forgotten.  When I was leaving the United Methodist ministry, my church members put together a collection of pictures for me.  What a walk down memory lane!  Baptisms, weddings, confirmations, pancake suppers, etc. - all captured on film.  I had a wonderful time reminiscing.

The people in that congregation were truly a community, a church family.  We had seen one another through good times and bad.  We had shared our joys and laughed together and supported one another through tough times as well.  Bidding farewell to those friends in Christ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, even though I was journeying toward something – returning to the Catholic Church.  As I turned the pages of the album, I remembered how we sang “Only a Shadow” at my last worship service there and how we prayed for one another.  Even though I had no idea what the future held, I truly believed and still believe that if we are in Christ, who we are today is only a shadow of who we will be in him.  Endings can be difficult and sometimes sad, but without endings, there can be no new beginnings and none of the growth that happens in between.

Paul and Jesus, in today’s Scripture readings are going through partings of their own, Paul from the leaders of the church at Ephesus and Jesus from his closest friends in the world, the disciples.  Paul was worried that there would be trouble after he was gone, both from outside the church as well as from within.  Jesus, as he was coming to the end of his earthly ministry, knew that the Evil One would revel in attempting to lure his followers away just as he tempted Jesus in the desert.  So, both Paul and Jesus say goodbye by praying for their friends, for strength and perseverance in the faith.     


As difficult as it was for Jesus to take leave of his beloved disciples, look what new beginnings unfolded as a result!  Once Jesus was gone, he sent the Holy Spirit as promised.  That same lot of disciples who listened to Jesus’ farewell message with great unease, who would later that very night abandon their Lord and deny ever knowing him, who would have trouble believing on Easter that he was risen end up totally transformed!  They become the great evangelizers we read about in the Book of Acts.  But Jesus had to ascend to his Father before the Holy Spirit could take hold of the disciples, dance as tongues of fire on their heads, and forever change them.

Can you see the hand of God in the endings and beginnings you have experienced?   Always remember that Jesus prayed not just for the twelve friends seated around the table the night before he died but for every single one of us. 

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