Chapter Talk – 32nd Sunday of the Year – November 8, 2020, cycle-A
“To sorrow in the suffering of the world together may be what we need to embrace now, something beyond hope, deeper than hope, which is to honor our grief of a changing world. . . Rather than anchoring our hope beyond the struggle, always projecting ahead, perhaps locating joy within the struggle through our full presence can be our essential gesture at this moment in time. To feel the pain of now and not look away. To act not with the hope of moving forward, always forward, but to see the wisdom of stepping sideways as we create a different space, a more conscious space in the direction of pause, where we can breathe and gather ourselves so we can gather others around us and create a community of care, even within our own families, especially our own families” (Erosion, at 273). I find these words of the writer Terry Tempest Williams profound and not unfitting for this 32nd Sunday’s liturgy where we are encouraged to stay awake, to be present, to be ready for the encounter with the Lord. She is saying that our tendency, way too often, is to project forward, especially to project our hope forward…always forward and the suggestion is that perhaps we do this when we are clearly not ready. What she is inviting us too is that we pause, step back…to consciously step into the suffering, into the pain or struggles that life naturally brings to all of us. And we do this individually for we each have our own cross to carry, and also as a community, for every community, every family has a cross to carry at the center of its life. The cross is not just about suffering and death. It is about unconditional love, it is about life, resurrected life for there is no true life that has not emerged from the process of dying. ‘Whoever wants life must lose their lives’ (Mk 8:35). Suffering, struggle is integral to any Spirit informed change, and ultimately to any true movement forward. And this is at the heart of the gospel way, of the way of Jesus.
There is a reflection from Pope Francis on the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-13) that I believe is important to ponder. Francis says that in this parable Jesus is reminding us to be ready: “Here is the meaning of being wise and prudent: it is a matter of not waiting until the last minute of our lives to cooperate with the grace of God, but rather to do so as of now” (Angelus, November 12, 2017). There are moments of grace daily that come upon the shore of our lives; as we cooperate with grace, we are allowing God to do God’s work in us. Pope Francis is clearly placing us in the present moment for that is where grace comes…our thinking of the future or our getting pulled down by the past, neither of these are making us ready or prepared to receive the grace in the moment. Terry Tempest Williams is proposing the same when she is telling us not to project our hope into the future but to step back into the present, to step into the struggles, the suffering, the uncertainty for this is where true joy, a path forward will emerge. It is another way of saying don’t leave the cross behind: the cross of our individual lives and community life, the cross of our Church and world….Hope, a new direction, the needed changes and choices we are being called to make, emerge out of praying into the struggle, leaning into it until God breathes the new life, the new possibility into our hearts and minds. To spin away, to turn away from the existential givens of this moment for ourselves and our community will not show us the direction for the future…From his baptism forward Jesus embraces the cross, for at the center of the cross is the power of love, a love that transforms, that heals, that brings hope and direction. Let us not forget: to encounter Jesus is to encounter the face of unconditional love, a love won through the cross.
Creating a community of care or a family of care: we step back, we pause, we surrender, we are present in the now moment of our lives, ready to face and carry the suffering or struggles before us, alone and together. For we know in and through Christ that the outcome will not be death but true live and a love that always has the final word. Locating our joy within the struggle…this is how we create new community, a community of care, a community of hope, a community that radiates Christ’s unconditional love and mercy.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess